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With the Compliments of 





published under the direction of the 

Department of History 

From the Income of 





BEFORE 1825 


Instructor in History 
Simmons College 


Copyright, 1917 
By Yale University Press 

First published, October, 1917 


The present volume is the sixth work published by the 
Yale University Press on the Frederick John Kingsbury 
Memorial Publication Fund. This foundation was estab- 
lished August 3, 1912, by gifts to Yale University from 
Alice E. and Edith Davies Kingsbury, in memory of 
their father, Frederick John Kingsbury, LL.D., who was 
born in Waterbury, Connecticut, January 1, 1823, and 
died at Litchfield, Connecticut, September 30, 1910. 
Mr. Kingsbury was a graduate of Yale College in the 
Class of 1846, and an Alumni Fellow of the Yale 
Corporation from 1881 to 1899. The income of the 
Foundation is used *'to promote the knowledge of 
American history and to associate the name of Frederick 
John Kingsbury with this study at Yale. ' ' 

V. B. P. 


It is the purpose of this work to trace the growth of 
the committee systems in the lawmaking bodies of the 
colonies and states from about 1750 to 1790, and in the 
federal House of Representatives from the beginning to 
1825. During these years the committee form of organ- 
ization was so firmly established that it has become the 
distinguishing feature of the American legislature. In 
view of this fact it seemed to be worth while to put in 
accessible form the more important steps in that early 
development. Matters of procedure are touched upon 
only in so far as they throw light on the main theme. 
In the processes of legislation it is difficult to separate 
completely the operations of the regular committees from 
the activities of the party caucus, and the following 
chapters discuss both types of organization, the formal, 
provided for by the rules, and the informal, supplied by 
the political party. An attempt is made to show how the 
colonial legislatures were directed by party leaders, how 
the caucus and the executive influenced the work of the 
federal House, and also how certain arrangements made 
primarily to facilitate legislation have affected some of 
the larger aspects of constitutional history. 

This study was undertaken at the suggestion of 
Professor Allen Johnson, of Yale University, and the 
material in Chapters I to VII, inclusive, with the excep- 
tion of a part of Chapter II, was worked out in the form 
of a doctoral dissertation under his direction in 1913. 
The writer is very glad to acknowledge his indebtedness 
to him for helpful advice and criticism at that time. 
Those chapters have subsequently been largely rewritten, 


and the last six are entirely new. The writer also wishes 
to take this opportunity to express his grateful appre- 
ciation to Professor Charles M. Andrews, of Yale 
University, both for his suggestions while the work was 
in progress, and for reading and criticising the whole 
manuscript before it went to press. It is also a pleasure 
to thank the officials and attendants at various libraries, 
particularly those of Yale and Harvard Universities, the 
Massachusetts Historical Society, the State Library of 
Massachusetts, and the American Antiquarian Society, 
for their assistance in the search for material. 

R. V. H. 

Boston, Massachusetts, 
December 21, 1916. 


Preface ....... 

Chapter I. Standing Committees in the Colo 

nial Legislatures, 1750-1775 . 
Chapter II. Party Organization in the Legis 

lature ...... 

Chapter III. The ''Junto" in New York and 

North Carolina ..... 

Chapter IV. Committee Development, 1776 

Chapter V. Committees on Legislation, and 
the Committee on Public Bills in North 
Carolina ...... 

Chapter VI. The Committee of the Whole 
House ...... 

Chapter VII. Committee Procedure 

Chapter VIII. The First Congress . 

Chapter IX. Republicanism in the House, 1792 


Chapter X. The Jeffersonian Regime . 
Chapter XL Madison and Congress 
Chapter XII. The Growth of the Standing Com 

mittee System ..... 



Chapter XIII. Committees, Cabinet, and Party 237 

Bibliographical Note . . . . . 257 

Appendix; Lists of Standing Committees . . 259 

Index ........ 263 








LEGISLATURES, 1750-1775 

By 1760 a change little short of revolutionary had 
taken place in the colonial assembly. In the beginning, 
when the settlements were small, it had apparently been 
looked upon as a sort of borough corporation, vested 
with authority over local matters of secondary impor- 
tance. In England it was still so regarded at the time 
of the Revolution. On that side of the water there was 
no appreciation of the fact that the growth of the 
assembly had kept pace with the increase in population, 
so that the representatives of the voters had formed the 
habit of dealing with almost every kind of colonial 
problem. This development had been fostered by British 
ignorance of or lack of interest in American affairs, and 
after several decades the colonists naturally assumed 
that privileges and powers which they had gradually 
acquired were theirs by prescriptive right. Certain it 
is that by the end of the Seven Years ' War these Ameri- 
can assemblies were claiming for themselves authority 
in all colonial matters corresponding to that exercised 
by the House of Commons in England. After they 
obtained control of colonial finance, they were able to 
subject the governors to their rule, and thus they made 
themselves the mainspring in the whole political mechan- 
ism. That by cooperating with the governor they could 
make his administration an unqualified success, the 
careers of such men as Shirley clearly prove ; by oppos- 


ing him, they could completely ruin the most carefully 
prepared executive plans. 

This consciousness of power, derived from actual 
achievements in the past, made the assemblies somewhat 
independent at best, and extraordinarily obstreperous 
and disagreeable at the worst. Members who won 
prominence were aggressive, self-confident politicians, 
whose frontier spirit made them contemptuous of admin- 
istrators sent over from England. Between the points 
of view of the two groups, royal officials and colonial 
assemblymen, there was a gulf as wide as the ocean. 
When differences arose between them, as they inevitably 
did, the leaders in the house soon showed that they knew 
how to organize their forces in the most effective way 
for the defense of their claims. 

Whatever names they may have adopted, House of 
Burgesses, House of Representatives, or Commons 
House of Assembly, from New Hampshire to Georgia 
these colonial assemblies were all very much alike in 
external features and general structure. Each had a 
lower house, representing the voters, and an upper 
chamber representing British authority, proprietary or 
king. They had similar officers : speaker, clerk, sergeant- 
at-arms, and doorkeepers; with few exceptions their 
procedure in passing bills was similar. More important 
still, they all transacted about the same kind of business. 
They kept in touch with the agent in England, super- 
vised the treasurer and his accounts, had general over- 
sight of both raising and appropriating money, and made 
laws for the colony. They differed chiefly in size, and 
in the degree of complexity of their internal structure. 
The question of size is not particularly important, but 
the types of organization worked out in the various 
assemblies are not unworthy of attention, partly because 
of their possible influence on the federal Congress, but 


more especially because they reveal the true source of 
legislative strength. 

In the case of these early bodies, as in Congress itself, 
it is essential to remember that there were generally to 
be found two different types of organization : the formal 
committee system on the one hand, and the party machine 
on the other; of these, the latter was infinitely the more 

At the present time, the most obvious and fundamental 
difference between the British House of Commons and 
the American House of Representatives is the promi- 
nence of the standing committee system in the latter 
body. And yet, in spite of this fact, as Dr. Jameson has 
shown, the standing committee did not originate in local 
colonial assemblies, but in the British House of Com- 
mons.^ The institution first came into use in Parliament, 
near the close of the sixteenth century. Its subsequent 
decline and disappearance as an active factor in legis- 
lative work there was probably due to the rise of the 
Cabinet. At the very time when the institution was 
becoming important in America, it had practically died 
out in the House of Commons, so the assumption that it 
was of strictly American origin was natural. 

Standing committees were used in the House of Com- 
mons as early as 1571; in that year a group of election 
cases was referred to a single committee, and two 
others were also appointed, one on grievances, and 
another on religion.^ In 1592 there appeared a genuine 
standing committee of the modern American type, on 
privileges and elections. This was appointed to '^ exam- 
ine and make report of all such Cases touching the 

1 Jameson, ' ' Origin of the Standing Committee System, ' ' in Pol. Sc. 
Quarterly, 1894, pp. 246-247, 

2 Commons Journal, I, 83, April 6 and 7, 1571. "At the same time, 
another Committee was nominated, to consider of those griefs and Peti- 
tions ..." etc. D'Ewes, 157, 159; Jameson, 248. 


Elections and Returns of any of the Knights, Burgesses 
and Barons of this House, and also all such Cases for 
priviledge as in any wise may occur or fall out during 
all the same sessions of Parliament."^ This committee 
soon came to be a regular factor in the organization of 
the House, so that when the motion for its appointment 
was made in 1603, the clerk could add : ' ' This is an usual 
Motion in the Beginning of every Parliament."* For 
several decades questions relating to privileges and 
returns were customarily referred to this committee.^ 

The committee on privileges remained a standing 
committee, but a peculiar custom developed in the case 
of the committees on religion and grievances. Instead 
of referring matters of this kind to committees of a few 
members, the House would set aside certain days when 
they might be taken up in committee of the whole. In 
1625, for instance, there were standing committees on 
privileges and on religion; then, orders were given to 
th^ effect that on every Tuesday there should be a ses- 
sion of the committee of the whole House for courts of 
justice; on Wednesday and Friday for grievances, and 
on Thursday for trade.® Three years later, however, a 

3 D 'Ewes, 471, February 26, 1592 ; Jameson, 251. 
* Commons Journal, I, 149, March 22, 1603. 

5 These questions related to election returns, contested elections, and in 
general to all matters which concerned the special privileges of members. 
A member 's servants were also clothed with some of their master 's dignity, 
and any affront to them might be taken up by the House. An amusing 
instance of this kind occurred in 1603, and was actually referred to the 
committee on privileges. The clerk's dignified account of the affair is worth 
quoting. "Complaint was made of certain Pages, who, disorderly and 
violently, upon the Parliament-stairs, had taken a Cloak from one Eichard 
Brocke, a young Youth, Servant to a Member of the House, and carried 
it to the Sign of the Sun, a Tavern, in Westminster; and the Owner follow- 
ing them, and demanding his Cloak, they offered it to the Vintner 's Servant 
for such Wines as they called for; and, when the Eeckoning was brought in, 
they left it in lieu of Payment; and the Vintner's Man by Force kept it 
from the O'wner. " Commons Journal, I, 152, March 24, 1603. 

6 Commons Journal, I, 817, 818, February 9 and 10, 1625. These were 
known as "Grand Committees," while the regular standing committee on 


day was appointed for a grand committee on religion, 
and with that change the system was given its final form. 
There was first, a standing committee on privileges, and 
then there were the four grand committees, or com- 
mittees of the whole House, on religion, courts of 
justice, grievances, and trade/ 

In form, this system lasted until 1832, but it fell into 
disuse long before that date. In the first session after 
the Reform Bill of 1832 went into effect, the customary 
motion to appoint them was made as usual, but it was 
opposed by some of the members on the ground that 
these grand committees were ''a complete dead letter." 
A Mr. Littleton said that he had spent considerable time 
in looking over the journals, and he could discover only 
one instance in which the committee on religion had been 
used since the Long Parliament. A few days later the 
discussion was continued, and, as the record stands in 
Hansard, "The Order for the Appointment of the 
Standing Committees was then negatived." Such was 
the end of the grand committees, which had hitherto 
been regularly appointed since 1628.^ 

This committee system then was in active use in 
Parliament during the seventeenth century, the very 
time when American legislatures were taking shape. If, 
in search of precedent and example, the colonists exam- 
ined the Journals of the House of Commons at all, they 
could not help becoming familiar with the practice of 
referring certain matters to standing committees. The 
conception of such an institution, evolved in England 
in the course of centuries of parliamentary experience, 

privileges was called a ' ' select committee, ' ' because it was composed of only 
a part of the members of the House. In modern parlance the term "select 
committee" is applied to those committees appointed for a single piece of 

7 Commons Journal, 1, 873, March 20, 1628. 

8 Par?. Debates, 3d Series, Vol. 15, especially pp. 229-230, 627; February 
6, 13, 1833. 


was thus placed at the disposal of these frontier 
legislatures at the very beginning of their career. 

In spite of their common origin, American legislatures 
differed widely in respect of their internal structure. 
Their committee systems ranged all the way from a 
practically exact imitation of the one just described, 
through more or less extensive variations of it, to one 
having no trace of parliamentary precedent. There is 
no doubt that committee development in both New York 
and Virginia was directly influenced by English prac- 
tices, while that in the House of Representatives of 
Massachusetts reveals not a trace of English influence. 
The reason for this divergence may be sought, in part 
at least, in the nature of the connection, or lack of it, 
between the colonies and England. 

It has been frequently pointed out that the relations 
between Virginia and the other middle and southern 
colonies and England were much more intimate than in 
the case of the northern colonies. The agricultural 
products of the South were for the most part shipped to 
England, and the planters always kept up a regular 
correspondence with their agents at home. Then, too, 
it was not unusual for the aristocratic southerners to 
send their sons to English universities, where they 
became thoroughly familiar with English customs. Nat- 
urally when some members of the assemblies had been 
educated in England they would be inclined to follow 
British precedents in legislative affairs. It is also 
reported that in some cases the clerks in the assemblies 
were Englishmen, who, because of experience in Parlia- 
ment, were intimately acquainted with procedure in that 

In New England, on the other hand, connection with 
the mother country was slight. The settlement there had 
been made primarily to secure more freedom, and the 


descendants of the Puritan colonists had never formed 
the habit of looking to England for guidance in any- 
thing. It has been well said that New England repre- 
sented the very "dissidence of dissent." This spirit of 
separatism, brought out so clearly in the difficulties with 
Charles the Second and Sir Edmund Andros, is well 
illustrated by an anecdote — which may or may not be 
true — of 1689. It is said that when plans were being 
made in Boston for celebrating the accession of William 
and Mary, it was decided not to fly the English flag in 
honor of the occasion, for the very simple reason that 
not a single one could be found. Then, too, trade rela- 
tions bound New England more closely to the West 
Indies than to the home market, so the economic con- 
nection, so prominent in the South, was missing. Legis- 
lators in New England, therefore, did not have the 
opportunity to become familiar with procedure in the 
House of Commons. These points are mentioned, not 
as adequate explanations of the differences that will be 
pointed out in detail below, but as material facts having 
more or less bearing on the case. They may account for 
differences in the legislative customs of Massachusetts 
and Virginia, but they do not tell why there was so little 
trace of the English committee system in South Carolina 
before 1769. 

The best instance of deliberate adoption of the com- 
mittee system of Parliament is to be found in the Assem- 
bly of New York. At the beginning of a new Assembly, 
just as at the opening of a new Parliament, days were 
regularly set apart for the meeting of "Grand Com- 
mittees" for grievances, courts of justice, and trade. 
Then a standing committee of privileges and elections 
would be appointed, in accordance with English prece- 
dent. The legislature of New York may have considered 
itself so pious that no grand committee for religion was 


needed, or so far beyond hope that one would be use- 
less; certain it is that none was provided for. The 
Assembly had some sort of a committee on laws, regu- 
larly appointed, but apparently not a standing committee 
in the strict sense of the word. With these two excep- 
tions parliamentary custom was followed to the very 

If the legislators of New York kept close to English 
precedent in form, they were equally exact in the matter 
of procedure. By the middle of the eighteenth century, 
if not before, the grand committees in Parliament had 
become * ' a complete dead letter. ' ' They were practically 
as defunct in New York. Between 1750 and 1775 only 
five different questions were referred to the grand com- 
mittees : two to the committee for courts of justice, and 
three to the one for grievances." These five subjects 
might just as well have been referred to select commit- 
tees, in accordance with the regular custom. It is diffi- 
cult to see why the grand committees should have been 
used at all. Evidently some member of an experimental 
turn of mind wanted to see whether or not the rusty old 
machinery could be made to move. He proved that it 
could, because reports were ultimately submitted, but 
the use of these committees was clearly contrary to all 

An investigation of the Journal for the years 1737 to 
1763 shows that the grand committees were not used 
once during that period. As a matter of fact they made 
their first appearance in the Assembly in 1737, for the 

9iV. Y. Assembly Journal, September 4, 1750, p. 277. 

10 Ibid., November 23, 1763, p. 727; November 27, 1765, pp. 786-787; 
February 6, 1772, p. 42; February 16, 1773, p. 62; February 3, 1774, p. 34. 
The grand committee for trade was never mentioned after the day of its 
appointment. No business was ever referred to it, and there is nothing in 
the Journal to indicate that it ever met. 


Journal gives no hint of their existence before that date.^'^ 
Now the ways of the legislature are and have been de- 
vious and obscure, so that extraordinary actions are to 
be expected, but their aberrations are almost always 
susceptible of explanation. This sudden adoption of a 
useless, unused, worn-out committee system was appar- 
ently one of the by-products of an extremely important 
constitutional development, which affected all the colo- 
nies. During the first half of the eighteenth century 
the legislatures were beginning to find themselves, so to 
speak, and to realize their own strength. Along with 
this consciousness of power there was a natural desire 
to increase their influence. In a word, the American 
assemblies began to feel that their position corresponded 
to that of the Parliament in England, and that their 
authority in American affairs was supreme. Now if the 
Assembly resembled the House of Commons in power, 
it is not strange that the members should desire a like 
resemblance in form. As one means of carrying out the 
parallel they hit upon the superannuated committee sys- 
tem, still somewhat imposing from an ornamental stand- 
point, and attached it bodily to the Assembly. Then, if 
their claims were challenged, they could point with pride 
to their legislature, for was it not like its parent even 
in minute details'? 

This conscious copying of British customs, revealed 
in the organization of the House, was referred to at least 
once in the course of a debate. In 1768, while discussing 
a point of committee procedure. Colonel Livingston 
argued that it would be advisable to follow parlia- 
mentary precedent, because of ''our imitation of the 
practise of the Commons of Great Britain. . 


11 N. Y. Assemhly Journal, July 23, 1728, p. 575, no mention of the 
grand committees; September 1, 1737, p. 704, first mention. 
12 lUd., December 16, 1768, p. 52. 


While it bears just as unmistakably the marks of its 
origin as does that in the Assembly of New York, the 
committee system in the House of Burgesses of Vir- 
ginia was the very opposite of a dead letter, or a mere 
survival of the past. Instead of being attached to the 
legislature after customs had become fixed, the stand- 
ing committee was introduced at an early stage in its 
career. As the House itself developed, the committee 
system grew with it, so that it became an important 
factor in procedure. In New York the system might 
have been removed in 1770 as suddenly as it had been 
introduced in 1737, without interfering with or affecting 
in any way the work of the Assembly, but an aban- 
donment of the standing committees in Virginia would 
have necessitated a radical rearrangement of legislative 

The history of the standing committee in Virginia 
shows how an institution may develop under the opera- 
tion of two different forces. There was evidently a more 
or less conscious attempt to make the House of Bur- 
gesses correspond in form as closely as possible to the 
House of Commons. At the same time, the svstem 
developed gradually, in response to the pressure of an 
increasing volume of business. Perhaps it would be 
more accurate to say that the amount of work made the 
committees necessary, and that parliamentary custom 
supplied their names. By 1769 the system was com- 
plete, with six standing committees, five of which were 
named after those in Parliament, while one was a local 

As early as 1691 there is evidence that the House of 
Burgesses considered itself a House of Commons in 
miniature. In that year the colonial agent was instructed 
''to supplicate their majesties to confirm to Virginia the 
authority of the Gen'l assembly consisting of the Gov- 


ernor, Council, and Burgesses as near as may be to the 
model of the Parliament of England. ' "^ With that feel- 
ing so concretely expressed, it is not strange that the 
form of the colonial assembly began to resemble that of 

The first three standing committees in the House of 
Burgesses were those on privileges and elections, propo- 
sitions and grievances, and public claims, two of which 
show traces of an imitation of parliamentary custom. 
All three had apparently been in active service several 
years before 1680. The existence of the committee on 
claims shows that Virginia already had a clear idea of 
the value of the standing committee, and that she had 
learned to adapt the institution to local needs. The three 
final additions to the group, on courts of justice, trade, 
and religion, for each of which there was precedent in 
England, at first sight appear to be cases of adoption for 
the sake of mere appearances, in no way different from 
those in New York." 

The committee of public claims, strictly a colonial 
development, had originally been a joint committee, 
which acted as the highest court of appeals in the col- 
ony. After its judicial work was taken away in 1680, it 
lived on as a House committee, to investigate claims 
laid before the legislature.^^ In 1727 the committee on 
courts of justice appears to have been appointed for the 
purpose of bringing about reforms in the courts of the 
colony. It was ordered "to inquire into the methods of 
proceeding in the Courts of Justice and the occasions of 

13 Bruce, Inst. Hist, of Va., II, 478, note 1. 

1* For the early history of the first three, see Bruce, Inst. Hist, of Va., 
II, 478, 485; Miller, Legisl. of Va., 171; Hartwell, Blair, and Chilton, 
"Present State of Va., " in Mass. Hist. Soc. Colls., 1st Series V, 139. 

First appointments of the last three: Va. H. of B. Journal, February 10, 
1727, p. 16; May 7, 1742, p. 6; May 8, 1769, p. 190. 

t5iUd., February 28, 1752, pp. 7-9; November 4 and 5, 1762, pp. 71, 75; 
and Journal for 1772, passim. 


delaies therein, and to prepare a Bill for amending the 
defects of the Laws now in force relating to the several 
Courts of the Colony, and for the expediting of Busi- 
ness. '"** 

Why the committee on trade should have been 
appointed in 1742 is not so clear, but the committee for 
religion, created in 1769, was certainly the outgrowth of 
local conditions. In 1768 the evangelical activity of cer- 
tain dissenters brought about a sweeping religious re- 
vival, the result of which was considerable violence. 
The Baptists in particular were regarded as a disturb- 
ing social element, and in 1768 a member of that denomi- 
nation was imprisoned because of his pernicious reli- 
gious operations. Between 1768 and 1775 thirty preach- 
ers and a few laymen suffered the same fate. The Bur- 
gesses were compelled to take cognizance of the ques- 
tion, and in order to deal with it as effectively as possi- 
ble, they created a standing committee of religion.^'^ Had 
there been no precedents in the House of Commons, diffi- 
culties relating to courts and religion might have been 
dealt with in some other way than by the appointment of 
committees. But the Virginians were acquainted with 
the customs of Parliament, and in solving their prob- 
lems they very naturally made use of their knowledge 
of English procedure. Thus while conditions to be 
improved were local, parliamentary usage suggested the 

By 1769, then, with the exception of the committee on 
claims, the list of standing committees in Virginia corre- 
sponded to that in the House of Commons. In England 
these were grand committees or committees of the whole 
House, while in Virginia, theoretically at least, member- 

^ 16 Va. E. of B. Journal, February 10, 1727, p. 16. 

17 Ibid., May 8, 1769, p. 190; Eckenrode, Separation of Church and State 
in Va., 36-38, This committee had not been appointed "from time imme- 
morial," as Mr. Eckenrode states on pp. 132-133. 


ship was not so extensive. But as time went on, the sys- 
tem in Virginia was made to resemble that of the House 
of Commons in form as well as in name. In some way 
the custom developed of adding to those members origi- 
nally appointed, until by the end of the session the com- 
mittees would be double the size they were at first.^* 
That custom was in effect an approach toward the idea of 
the grand committee, and a further step in that direction 
was taken when the privilege of voting in committee 
meetings was given to all House members who cared to 
attend, whether they had been formally appointed or 
not. An order to this effect, applying only to the com- 
mittee on privileges and elections, was passed in 1772, 
but in 1776 like permission was given to the committees 
on propositions and grievances and on religion." 

This peculiar custom of giving all members a voice in 
the deliberations of these committees may have been 
forced upon the Burgesses by chronic non-attendance. 
In 1775 Dinwiddle wrote to Halifax that ' ' Our Assembly 
met the 29*^ Ult'o, but not above one-half of them gave 
their Attendance."-" It is impossible to gather from the 
Journal just how regular or irregular the attendance 
was, and it is of course unsafe to generalize from a single 
piece of evidence. There is reason to believe, however, 
that under ordinary circumstances there were numerous 

18 The following figures, taken at random from two different sessions, 
give an idea of the increase: ^7^9 2774 


End of 










Priv. & Elects. . 





Props. & Grievs. . 










Courts of Justice 










19 Fo. E. of B. Journal, February 13, 1772, p, 162; November 6, 1776, 

20 Binwiddie Papers, II, 273, 


The trend of committee development in Virginia sug- 
gests the point mentioned above in discussing the Assem- 
bly of New York, that is, that as the legislatures became 
more and more firmly convinced of their own importance, 
they took pains to adopt the organization of the House 
of Commons. The prevailing political belief found ex- 
pression in the institutional development within the 
legislative bodies. 

But the resemblance of the standing committees of 
Virginia to those of New York and England was confined 
to name and form. Instead of serving as mere memo- 
rials of an ancient custom, they were vigorous, hard- 
working groups, actively engaged in legislative work. 
Virginia alone of all the colonies really had a practical 
understanding of the possibilities of an efficient com- 
mittee system. 

In the House of Burgesses the greater part of the work 
had to do with petitions presented to the assembly. At 
that time few measures demanding constructive legis- 
lation came up in the course of a session, but there were 
always a thousand and one local matters under consid- 
eration. Much of this work, such as looking up the truth 
of facts alleged in the petitions, or investigating condi- 
tions which had been complained of, could be done by 
committees. Procedure had become so well systematized 
by 1750 that no time was lost in putting such petitions 
into the hands of the proper committee. All those of a 
general nature were customarily referred to the com- 
mittee on propositions and grievances, the largest and 
most active of the group. Originally this committee had 
been appointed to consider complaints of one sort and 
another which were presented to the assembly.^^ As 
time went, however, complaints formed only a small 

2x Bruce, Inst. Hist, of Va., II, 480-485 ; Va. H. of B. Journal, February 
28, 1752, pp. 6-7. 


proportion of the work referred to it. It had to deal 
literally with all sorts of petitions, which included the 
most varied subjects. Some asked for changes in the 
laws relating to the shooting of squirrels and crows, 
bounties for killing wolves, holding county fairs, regu- 
lation of peddlers, treatment of stray animals, and 
tobacco inspection; others dealt with questions of roads, 
bridges, ferries, and county boundary lines ; still others 
would be concerned with the sale of parts of entailed 
estates; then, men engaged in doing work for the state, 
printing the public papers, or keeping a lighthouse, for 
example, would petition for an increase in salary. They 
differed so much that a classification of subjects dealt 
with is almost impossible.^^ In some sessions as many 
as sixty petitions of this kind would be referred to the 
committee on propositions and grievances alone. 

Petitions of a more special nature would be referred 
to other committees. Those relating to commerce and 
related matters, such as maintenance of lighthouses, 
would go to the committee on trade. After 1769, peti- 
tions relating to religious questions generally, vestry 
troubles, and church glebe lands, were referred to the 
committee on religion.^^ Other petitions, dealing with 
contested elections and related matters, went to the 
committee on privileges and elections. These were con- 
cerned generally with charges of the use of illegal meth- 
ods in attempts to win an election, bribery and intimida- 
tion, for example.-* 

The handling of these petitions necessitated a large 

22 The following references give an idea of the heterogeneous nature of 
the petitions. Va. H. of B. Journal, pp. 159, 160, 165, 168-169, 186, 190- 
191, session of 1772. 

23 To the comm. on trade: Va. E. of B. Journal, May 7, 1742, p. 6; May 
25, 1770, p. 17; May 21, 1774, pp. 119-120. To the comm. on religion: 
May 8, 1769, p. 190; also pp. 192, 195, 196, 216, 238, 245. 

2iIJ)id., February 28, 1752, pp. 6, 8; February 29, 1752, p. 19; March 
3, 25, 1752, pp. 13, 57; November 5, 1761, p. 9; May 17, 1777, p. 18. 


amount of routine work. In every case the committee 
had to make investigations concerning the truth of the 
facts alleged, and then decide whether or not the case 
was important enough to warrant legislative action. 
Frequently witnesses had to be summoned, and the com- 
mittee was sometimes kept busy with the taking of evi- 
dence from one end of the session to the other. Every 
case, no matter how trivial it seemed, was given a fair 

The history of the committee on courts of justice shows 
how a committee, in the creation of which parliamentary 
precedent had played a large part, could be adapted to 
local needs. It was supposed to consider all matters 
relating to the courts, but as a rule few such questions 
came before the colonial assembly. In Virginia, how- 
ever, the committees were not ornaments, and if there 
was not enough work in its pa'rticular line to keep a com- 
mittee busy, duties of another kind would be turned over 
to it. Before 1727, the committee on propositions and 
grievances had been called upon to go through the Jour- 
nal of the preceding session, and to make up and lay 
before the House a list of all unfinished business. At the 
same time it also made out a list of temporary laws that 
had expired and were in need of renewal. This work was 
finally transferred to the committee on courts of jus- 
tice, because its regular duties were liglit.^^ 

Work on petitions was not, however, the unique fea- 
ture of the standing committee system in Virginia. To 
a certain extent similar work was done in the same way 
in some of the other colonies. But the House of Bur- 
gesses was the only assembly which permitted its stand- 
ing committees to frame and amend bills. To-day the 

25 Va. H. of B. Journal, February 28, 1752, pp. 7, 8; November 5, 1762, 
pp. 72-73; November 11, 1769, pp. 248-250. 

This practice of course prevented the smothering of business in com- 


most important function of the regular committees is to 
put measures in shape for their passage through the 
legislature, and the very idea of a standing committee 
system which had no connection with work of that kind 
seems absurd. In all colonial assemblies bills were 
drafted by select committees, and sometimes amend- 
ments would be made in the same way. But the use of 
the standing committees as parts of the actual law- 
making machinery was peculiar to Virginia.^® 

Although the committee system of Virginia was not 
typical, but unique, as regards both the nature of work 
done, and the number of standing committees, it serves 
nevertheless as an excellent standard by which the others 
may be judged. While no colonial assembly had as many 
standing committees, most of them had one or two. All 
of the colonies from New York to Georgia, with the pos- 
sible exception of Delaware, had some sort of a com- 
mittee on grievances. In New York and New Jersey it 
was a grand committee, but elsewhere it was standing. 
In fact, there was little variation in form, and, except in 
Maryland, where it was called the committee on griev- 
ances and courts of justice, and in North Carolina and 
Georgia, where it had the Virginia name, propositions 
and grievances, there was no difference in name. It was 
in brief a committee either to consider complaints pre- 
sented to the assembly, or to formulate the complaints 
of the colony itself." 

26 The following references are examples, not isolated cases, of this 
practice. Va. H. of B. Journal for 1766, pp. 25, 33, 35, 38, 40, 46, 50, 64; 
for 1767, pp. 144-146; for 1770, pp. 13, 40; 1772, pp. 176-178. 

27 iV. Y. Assembly Journal, September 4, 1750, p. 277; November 23, 
1763, p. 727; February 16, 1773, p. 62. 

N. J. H. Journal, September 10, 1776, p. 7. 

Pa. H. Journal, October 16, 1758, p. 1; November 16, pp. 4, 5; June 2, 
1759, p. 55; February 28, 1759, p. 22; January 22, 1767, p. 512; Franklin, 
Worlcs, II, 485-493. 

Md. H. Journal, November 5, 1765, p. 17. 

N. C. Col. Bees., V, 240, December 12, 1754; V, 297-300, January 9, 1755. 


Another standing committee, found in nearly all the 
middle and southern colonies, was that on privileges and 
elections. This differed little in the various assemblies, 
and a description of the work done by the committee in 
Virginia would apply equally well to them all.^^ 

In addition to the committees named above, there were 
a few standing committees that deserve mention. In 
North Carolina there was a joint committee on claims, 
similar to the one in Virginia, and another on accounts, 
the duty of which was to examine and audit all public 
accounts, such as those of tax collectors, military officers, 
and the state treasurers.^® Then, long before the revo- 
lutionary committee of correspondence appeared, several 
colonies had committees of that name, the duties of which 
were to keep in touch with the colonial agents in Eng- 
land. In some cases they were regular standing com- 
mittees, but in others they were named by statute, so 
that they were, strictly speaking, boards or commissions 
rather than legislative committees.^" 

S. C. H. Journal, June 26, 1769, p. 11. In South Carolina the committee 
was not created until after the Eevolutionary agitation became serious, 
and it was probably an outgrowth of that movement. 

Ga. Col. Eecs., XIII, 13, January, 1755. 

28^. T. Assembly Journal, September 4, 1750, p. 277; Md. H. Journal, 
November 5, 1765, p. 17; N. C. Col. Bees., VI, 364; Ga. Col. Bees., XIII, 
13, January 8, 1755. S. C. House Journal, October 13, 1760, p. 12. 

In South Carolina the only standing committees were those on privileges 
and elections, and on grievances; the latter was not created until June 26, 
1769. S. C. H. Journal, p. 11. The following statement is made by 
W. Eoy Smith, in South Carolina as a Boyal Province, p. 11: "Standing 
committees on religion, privileges and elections, grievances, trade, and courts 
of justice were appointed. ..." The Journal of the House contains no 
record of any such appointments, and the writer quoted gives no authority 
for his statement. The only colonial assembly having such a complete list 
was the House of Burgesses of Virginia. It is not ordinarily regarded as 
a safe practice to draw upon the journal of one legislature for information 
regarding procedure in another. 

29 N. C. Col. Bees., V, 239, 307, 965-975. 

30 iV". Y. Assembly Journal, July 5, 1755, p. 452; Pa. H. Journal, October 
16, 1758, p. 1; Md. H. Journal, December 20, 1765, pp. 84-85, appointed 
for the recess only; Va. H. of B. Journal, November 8, 1762, p. 99, named 
by statute; N. C. Col. Bees., VI, 429; Ga. Col. Bees., XIV, 10. 


The assemblies of these middle and southern colonies 
formed a group, the standing committees in which all 
bore clearly marked traces of their parliamentary origin. 
The New England colonies, on the other hand, formed 
a wholly distinct group, in which the organization of the 
assemblies did not resemble that of the House of Com- 
mons. In New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecti- 
cut there were no standing committees at all before the 
Revolution, and those that flourished for a time in 
Massachusetts were of local origin. 

By 1759, the House of Representatives of Massachu- 
setts was on a par with the House of Burgesses, so far 
as size and amount of business were concerned. The 
legislature of Virginia, however, had developed a more 
finished method of transacting business. As was the 
case in many other assemblies, the greater part of the 
work was concerned with petitions. In the first session 
of the new House, in 1759, a little over two weeks in 
length, fifty-nine petitions were introduced, all of which, 
if granted, required a special vote of the General Court, 
to cover cases not specifically provided for by law. In 
the course of the four sessions from May, 1761, to May, 
1762, over a hundred and seventy petitions were pre- 
sented. These covered the widest range of subjects. 
Men asked the legislature for authorization to dispose 
of the land of their insane relatives, for permission 
to start lotteries — this in Puritan Massachusetts — to 
change their place of worship, to alter boundary lines, 
and to fish for alewives in seines, — in short, they peti- 
tioned for anything they wanted, and their wants were 
both varied and curious. Instead of relying upon stand- 
ing committees to perform the routine work in connection 
with this heterogeneous mass of business, the House of 
Representatives turned it all over to separate select 
committees. This method did not insure any greater 


care in the handling of these documents than did the Vir- 
ginia plan, and it was surely unbusinesslike and wasteful. 
Apparently with a growing realization of this fact the 
House, in 1760, appointed a standing committee to deal 
with petitions of sick and wounded soldiers.^^ In 1762, 
seven different standing committees were appointed, 
each of which was expected to handle petitions relating 
to a certain definite subject. These committees were 
brought into existence, not for the purpose of imitating 
parliamentary precedent, but to enable the House to 
transact its business more expeditiously, and their 
names bear evidence of their local origin. They were 
appointed to consider petitions of sick and wounded 
soldiers, of those captured in the war, of men who had 
lost their guns, and of those who for some reason had 
failed to get their wages; the other three were to deal 
with petitions regarding the sale of lands, rehearings of 
lawsuits, and requests for pensions.^^ The following 
year the committee on petitions of soldiers who were 
deprived of their wages was not reappointed, and in 
1763 two more were dropped. From 1765 to 1767 none 
at all were appointed, and from 1767 to 1774 there was 
only one, on petitions regarding the sale of land.^^ As 
the revolutionary movement increased in violence, busi- 
ness of a general nature received scant attention in the 
House, and standing committees on petitions were no 
longer needed. Then, too, the standing committees had 
been appointed to deal with questions growing out of 
the war, and when it was over petitions on those particu- 
lar subjects ceased to be burdensome. This rise of 
standing committees is interesting, because they were 
clearly a local development. Large amounts of work 

31 Mass. n. Journal, June 2, 1760, p. 16. 

32 lUd., May 29, .June 2, 1761, pp. 9, 20. 

33 7fctd., May 28, June 1, 1762, pp. 13, 27; May 26, 1763, p. 11; June 1, 
1764, p. 12; May 28, 1767, p. 9, 


would have forced the legislatures to adopt the system 
eventually, even though there had been no precedents 
for them in Parliament. 

Aside from these in Massachusetts, and the revolu- 
tionary committees of correspondence after 1772, there 
were no other standing committees in New England. 
The so-called committees of war which appeared in the 
northern colonies during the Seven Years ' War were not 
legislative committees at all, but administrative boards 
appointed by the assemblies. In New Hampshire they 
were named in the military appropriation acts. When 
the assembly voted money for the war, it would name 
at the same time a committee of its own members to 
superintend the expenditure of those funds. The 
''Committee of Warr" appointed in Rhode Island in 
1758 contained no members of the House at all.^* 

Besides the standing committees, certain select com- 
mittees were regularly appointed in all the colonies each 
term, and were therefore a part of the committee 
systems. The most common were those to reply to the 
governor's speech, to audit the public accounts, and to 
report on temporary laws which needed to be renewed. 
Thus the regular recurrence of certain definite work gave 
rise to a committee to attend to it. 

All the colonial assemblies appointed numerous select 
committees in the course of a session. Whenever the 
House wanted more light on any subject, which did not 
lie within the field of any of the standing committees, a 
small committee would be appointed to deal with the 

Except in the House of Burgesses, bills were always 
drafted by select committees. It was not the custom 
then for an individual member to lay bills before the 
House on his own responsibility. He might move that 

34 iV. K. Prov. Papers, VI, 369; B. I. H. Journal, May 6, 1758. 


a bill be brought in, or he might ask permission to intro- 
duce a measure, but in every case a select committee 
would be appointed to prepare the draft.^^ 

If the primary object of this comparative study of the 
standing committee in colonial assemblies were the 
discovery of precedents bearing on Congressional pro- 
cedure, the results would indeed be disappointing. It 
is evident that the records of the House of Burgesses 
alone contain material of value on that point. With the 
possible exception of that in North Carolina, the other 
legislatures might be ignored. To be sure assemblymen 
in other colonies knew what the standing committee was, 
but their own experience would convince them that it 
was an unnecessary factor in lawmaking. Certain it 
is that outside of Virginia the standing committee was 
anything but the distinguishing characteristic of the 
American legislature. 

But in some cases negative results are by no means 
valueless. It is evident that the standing committee 
reveals very little of the real forces at work in the com- 
plex process of legislation, and consequently it cannot 
be the proper avenue of approach. If that is the case, 
what was the important element in legislative organi- 
zation? Legislatures as such do not run themselves. 
There is always an inner circle, such as the Cabinet in 
England, the late committee on rules in Congress, or 
the caucus. For light on this prime factor in legislative 
processes, recourse must be had, not to the official 
records, because they are always silent on the most 

35 For examples see: N. H. Prov. Papers, VI, 540, VII, 147; Mass. H. 
Journal, June 1, 1759, p. 11; B. I. H. Journal, June 15, 1764; N. Y. 
E. Journal, September 5, 1750, p. 277; Pa. H. Journal, November 24, 
1758, p. 7; Md. H. Journal, November 6, 1765, p. 18; Va. H. of B. Journal, 
November 14, 1753, p. 122; N. C. Col. Bees., IV, 819, VII, 929; S. C. H. 
Journal, May 19, 1760, p. 196; Ga. Col. Bees., XIII, 27. 


interesting aspects of their subject, but to the annals of 
the political party. It is only by combining the accounts 
of the two types of organization, formal and informal, 
that an adequate conception of the legislature as it was 
can be formed. 


The legislature itself, with its formal committee 
system, is the instrument by means of which policies and 
principles are hammered into statutes; it is in no sense 
the agent which decides upon the advisability of pro- 
posing or making new laws. Hamilton's famous financial 
projects, for example, were ratified by Congress, but 
they were drawn up and virtually passed by the presiding 
genius in the Treasury department. No one dreams of 
finding the true history of the Assumption Act in either 
the Journal or the Annals of Congress; the really 
interesting episodes in the passing of that piece of 
legislation are recorded in the letters or diaries of a few 
men who knew — or thought they knew — just how the plan 
became a law. It is to the party organization, the 
''Junto," as the colonists called it, which is at the same 
time within and above the legislature, that one looks for 
the tangible results of a session. Such being the case, 
the most important standing committee in the legislature 
is the one which receives no regular appointment, and 
which has no official existence, namely, the group of party 

Indispensable as they are, the activities of these boards 
of directors are rarely brought out into the full light of 
publicity. The significant operations in lawmaking are 
most frequently the subterranean ones, concerning which 
little evidence exists. It is always hard to find out just 
what the organization has contributed in any particular 
case, and it is even more difficult to discover its mode of 


working. There are, however, enough bits of information 
available to make it worth while to attempt a study of 
these irregular committees, and the account need not 
be as impressionistic as the elusive nature of the subject 
might lead one to believe. 

In Massachusetts after 1766, and to a certain extent 
before, the political destinies of the House of Repre- 
sentatives were watched over by a powerful little group 
of members, the leaders of which were the Boston dele- 
gation and their friends. The names which stand out 
most conspicuously are Samuel Adams, Thomas Gushing, 
James Otis, and John Hancock of Boston, Hawley of 
Northampton, Sheaffe of Charlestown, together with 
Bowers, Dexter, and Partridge. Of this aggregation the 
chieftain was Adams, a man who should hold a position 
in the front rank of American political strategists. 

When the new House organized for business on May 
28, 1766, James Otis was elected Speaker, while Adams 
himself was made clerk. The thought of the hot-tempered 
Otis as presiding officer, however, was too much for 
Governor Bernard. By virtue of an undoubted, though 
seldom used authority, he refused to approve the choice 
of the House. Thereupon Thomas Gushing was named, 
and although he was a member of the party opposed to 
the governor, Bernard made the best of a bad matter and 
accepted him.^ 

Henceforth until the Revolution the business of the 
House was transacted by this Boston ''Junto." There 
were no standing committees of importance after 1766, 
but select committees were extensively used. They 
drafted the various measures, resolutions, and laws 
passed by the House, and naturally their membership 
would be carefully arranged by the leaders in charge. 
On these committees the same names, those of the four 

1 Mass. H. Journal, May 28, 1766, pp. 4-5. 


Bostonians and their trusted lieutenants, recur again and 
again, so often that mere accident could not account for 
their repetition. In a general statement it is difficult 
to convey an adequate idea of the completeness and 
comprehensiveness of their control. On every important 
committee they had a decisive majority. All matters 
pertaining to relations with the governor, the British 
government, or the colonial agent in England in par- 
ticular, and in fact all general questions bearing on the 
heated political controversy were referred to the same 
men. Other names might appear from time to time, but 
never in sufficient numbers to change the complexion of 
the committees themselves. Thus even the Journal 
of the House bears witness to the importance of this 
particular party organization.^ 

This unofficial standing committee, for such it really 
was, was sometimes formally vested with authority to 
look after the interests of the province during recesses 
between the regular sessions. For instance, on February 
20, 1766, just before the close of the session, a committee 
consisting of Lee of Cambridge, Gushing, Gray, and 
Samuel Adams of Boston, and Sheaffe of Charlestown, 
all prominent Whigs, as the opponents of the governor 
were styled, was appointed to take into consideration 
''the difficulties and discouragements as well with 
respect to trade, as the internal policy of the province," 
and to report at the next session.^ In December of 
the same year a similar committee was appointed.* 
"Internal affairs" of the province were ordinarily 
attended to by the governor and council during a recess. 
By making these appointments the House, or rather the 
Whig party, was guilty of a direct attack upon executive 

2 See note at end of this chapter for a list of some of these committees. 

3 Mass. B. Journal, February 20, 1766, p. 300; italics mine. 

4 lUd., December 8, 1766, p. 217. 


The one striking exception to these general statements 
regarding the personnel of committees on important 
subjects serves as further proof, if any is needed, of the 
absolute power of the ''Junto." In 1766 the governor 
was constantly urging the legislature to make an effort to 
discover those responsible for the riots over the Stamp 
Act of the preceding year. Bernard offered to lend all 
the assistance he could to help in the work. There is 
little doubt that Adams and Otis knew practically all 
there was to be known about those disturbances and 
those responsible for them, and any honest investigation 
would surely have implicated them. They, however, or 
at least the House, agreed to cooperate with the governor, 
and a committee was appointed to collect data. The five 
men named were directed to sit during the recess, and 
to gather information that might assist in the discovery, 
"as far as may be," of the guilty ones. The outbreaks 
had taken place chiefly in Boston and the neighboring 
towns, but instead of appointing members from those 
districts to the committee, the House appointed five men 
from the country, who, so far as the records show, had 
never served on a committee before, and who had taken 
no active part in the work of the House. Thus the 
appointees were men who had no actual knowledge of 
the situation, and who stood little chance of discovering 
the real facts. In due time this joker committee reported, 
but its findings revealed nothing except an apparent 
desire to avoid probing too deeply.^ The subject itself 
was important enough, but those who ordinarily took 
charge of such matters did not care to conduct an 
investigation into operations with which they had been 
too intimately connected. They could effectively smother 
the whole thing by making it impossible for the com- 

^Mass. H. Journal, June 28, October 30, 1766, pp. 142, 153-156. 


mittee to get in touch with the facts.® Thus the record 
of committee appointments proves that the business of 
the House of Representatives, if not of the whole legis- 
lature, was effectively guided and controlled by the 
delegation from Boston. If they wanted action, they 
took it; if they wished to avoid it, they made arrange- 
ments accordingly. 

A detailed analysis of the operations of this group 
would lay bare the very lively history of pre- 
revolutionary politics in Massachusetts, for the Boston 
''Junto" was more important than a mere legislative 
committee. It was the centre from which revolutionary 
propaganda was carried into every part of the province. 
Interesting as it would be to trace out the relationship 
between such little-known societies as the Sons of 
Liberty, for example, and the leaders in the House of 
Representatives, a study of that kind would be only 
remotely connected with the development of legislative 
organization. There were however certain important 
steps taken within the General Court which serve to 
illustrate the career of the ''Junto" as a part of law- 
making machinery. 

In the first place, the hand of the "Junto" is plainly to 
be seen in the election of councillors for 1766, and the 
years following. In Massachusetts the upper house was 
chosen by the lower, at the opening of each new General 
Court. Up to and including 1765 the conservative party, 
led by Thomas Hutchinson, had retained control of the 
Council. Even Andrew Oliver, who had achieved the 
unenviable distinction of being appointed distributor 
of stamps, was reelected in 1765, although by an ex- 
tremely narrow margin. In the next election, thanks to 

6 The General Court subsequently passed an act to indemnify those 
whose property had been destroyed, and to exempt from prosecution those 
who had been concerned in the riots. 


an energetic newspaper campaign, apparently directed 
by Samuel Adams/ the presiding genius of the Boston 
faction, the Whigs secured an overwhelming majority 
in the House of Representatives. The fate of the 
Council was sealed by this election. The temper of the 
House, manifested in its organization, already referred 
to, was even more clearly set forth in the choice of 
councillors. Hutchinson, Oliver, and two other con- 
servatives who had been instrumental in defeating the 
radical program of the House during the agitation over 
the Stamp Act, failed of reelection. A fifth had already 
resigned in anticipation of the result. For the five 
vacant places, prominent Whigs were chosen. Although 
he was powerless to prevent the exclusion of his friends, 
Governor Bernard could at least have a negative voice 
in the selection of their successors. He promptly re- 
jected the five Whigs, and for good measure he also 
threw out James Otis, Senior, who had been in the 
Council since 1763.^ The House in turn refused to name 
any others, so the Council was left with only twenty-two 
members, instead of the customary twenty-eight. But 
the Whigs had carried their point, for the elimination 
of the five conservatives had given them a safe majority. 
Henceforth until the Revolution, with the exception of 
one year, the membership of the Board was never com- 
plete. The effect of the election on the Council was 
described by Hutchinson himself as follows: ''In most 
of the addresses, votes, and other proceedings in council, 
of importance, for several years past, the lieutenant- 

7 Boston Evening Post, April 28, May 5, 1766. 

sMass. H. Journal, May 28, 29, 1766, pp. 7, 8, 10. This exclusion 
of Hutchinson and his friends was the outcome of a party quarrel dating 
back to 1760. The Whig leaders had tried to oust them before, but they 
had failed each year until this. Boston Gazette, April 26, 1762; Minot, 
II, 111. Public opinion would not tolerate their removal until after the 
disturbances over the Stamp Act. 


governor (Hutchinson) had been employed as chairman 
of the committees. Mr. Bowdoin succeeded him, and 
obtained a greater influence over the council than his 
predecessor ever had ; and, being united in principle with 
the leading men in the house, measures were concerted 
between him and them; and from this time the council, 
in matters which concerned the controversy between the 
parliament and the colonies, in scarcely any instance, 
disagreed with the house."® 

From 1766 on the work of the House of Representa- 
tives bears witness to the extent of the influence enjoyed 
by Samuel Adams and his corps of assistants. For one 
thing the various resolutions of the legislature can often 
be traced back to him, through the Boston town meeting 
and the town caucus. It so happened that many matters 
of business which subsequently came before the House 
first appeared in the form of instructions, issued by the 
metropolis for the guidance of its representatives. Now 
the political fortunes of the town were never left to blind 
chance; instead they were carefully fostered by the 
famous Caucus Club, described by John Adams, the 
cousin of Samuel. This organization had all the char- 
acteristics of a modem machine. ''This day," wrote 
Adams, "learned that the Caucus club meets at certain 
times in the garret of Tom Dawes, the adjutant of the 
Boston regiment. He has a large house and he has a 
movable partition in the garret which he takes down and 
the whole club meets in one room. There they smoke 
tobacco until you cannot see from one end of the garret 
to the other. There they drink flip, I suppose, and they 
choose a moderator who puts questions to vote regu- 
larly; and selectmen, assessors, collectors, fire-wards, 
and representatives are regularly chosen before they are 
chosen in the town." In the list of names of those 

» Hutchinson, Hist, of Mass., Ill, 156. 


present, that of Samuel Adams of course appears/" If 
this club was influential enough to choose both town 
officers and representatives, the assumption is reasonable 
that it was also responsible for the pronunciamentos 
issued by the town meeting. As a matter of fact, the 
three units referred to, caucus, town meeting, and House 
of Representatives, were all linked together in the 
person of Samuel Adams." Such being the case, instead 
of being bona fide instructions from constituents to 
representatives, these publications of the town were 
nothing but the declaration of the policies of the leaders. 

Measures recommended by a machine-controlled town 
meeting were consistently ratified by the House of 
Representatives, directed by the same power. The 
instructions of May 26, 1766, may be taken as a fair 
example. On that date the town drew up its orders for 
its representatives, and they were strictly enjoined to 
regulate their conduct in accordance with them.^^ In the 
first place the town urged them to prevent the use of 
public funds contrary to the wishes of the House of 
Representatives. Specifically they were directed to 
''oppose any grants for erecting, maintaining, or gar- 
risoning any useless or unnecessary forts or fortresses, 
in any part of this province"; if any such forts were 
being maintained, it was the duty of the representatives, 
so the instructions declared, to have the grievances 
speedily redressed. 

Next the representatives were instructed to secure the 

10 John Adams, Worlcs, II, 144 ; see also Boston Evening Post, March 14, 
21, 1763, for other accounts. John Adams, December 23, 1765, wrote that 
he went with his cousin Samuel to the Monday Night Club. ' * Politicians 
all at this club. We had many curious anecdotes about governors, coun- 
sellors, representatives, demagogues, merchants, etc. ' ' 

11 The following references throw light on Adams' services in linking 
together town meeting and legislature: Boston Town Bees., XVI, 152, 159, 
161, 182; Mass. E. Journal, October 23, 24, 29, 1765; January 16, 17, 1766. 

12 Boston Town Eecs., XVI, 182 et seq. 


passage of an act to make debates in the House of Repre- 
sentatives as public as those in the House of Commons. 

With reference to appropriations for government 
officials, the town advised its representatives not to be 
''persimonious in the support of executive officers of 
government," but at the same time ''to use all their 
influence against any one officer's holding two or more 
places inconsistent or interfering with each other." This 
was aimed at Thomas Hutchinson, who was lieutenant- 
governor, member of the Council, chief justice of the 
Superior Court, as well as judge of probate. 

Finally, the instructions contained the following advice 
for guidance in the election of the Council: "Ordered 
that you take particular care in your choice of councilers 
and other officers of the government for the ensuing year, 
that they be men of integrity and wisdom, lovers of 
liberty, and of our civil and ecclesiastical constitution; 
not giving your suffrage for any whose characters are 
doubtful, or who are of a timid or wavering disposition. ' ' 

The subjects enumerated in these instructions were 
brought before the House, and, what is more to the point, 
they received favorable attention. In compliance with 
the advice regarding fortresses, the House voted to 
reduce the forces at Castle William and also at Fort 
Pownall." On June 11, a committee was appointed to 
arrange for the construction of a gallery for spectators, 
and the debates were duly thrown open to the public.^* 
Then, to impress upon Hutchinson the fact that they 
disapproved of his holding so many offices, the members 
refused to vote any salary for the lieutenant-governor. 
As a matter of fact in this instance the House was carry- 
ing out a well-established custom, for it had never given 
Hutchinson any salary for that office, although he had 

13 Mass. H. Journal, June 21, 25, 26, 1766. 

14 Ibid., June 11, 1766. 


held it for several years.^® The final instruction 
regarding the choice of members of the Council was 
scrupulously obeyed. It is clear that the Boston 
''Junto" was eminently successful in securing the 
adoption of its legislative program. 

In the winter session of 1767-1768 the directors of the 
Whig forces were clearly responsible for the little work 
that was turned out. When the General Court convened, 
late in December, a committee on the state of the prov- 
ince was appointed, consisting of Cushing, Otis, Adams, 
and Hancock, the Boston delegation, and, in addition, 
James Otis, Senior, Hawley of Northampton, a radical 
of radicals. Bowers and Dexter, whose election to the 
Council had been negatived by Bernard, and Sheaffe, 
another active Whig.^*^ The tangible results of the ses- 
sion were first a series of resolutions urging a policy of 
non-importation, to defeat the Townshend Acts. These 
were nothing but a repetition of some previously adopted 
by the Boston town meeting, just before the meeting of 
the legislature. As usual, the town ordered its repre- 
sentatives to have these measures of passive resistance 
adopted by the House. Then letters in which the cause 
of the Americans was set forth were despatched to Cam- 
den, Chatham, Shelburne, Conway, Rockingham, and to 
the Commissioners of the Treasury. The masterpiece of 
the session was the famous circular letter that brought 
so much notoriety to Massachusetts." All these literary 
productions were drafted by the committee named, or 
under its immediate supervision. 

Up to this point the ''Junto" had been noisy and dis- 
agreeable, at least from Bernard's point of view, and it 
had tied his hands when he wished to protect the colony 

15 Mass. H. Journal, June 12, 1765. 

16 Ibid., December 30, 1767. 

IT Boston Town Bees., XVI, 221-226; H. Journal, January 15, 20, 22, 29; 
February 2, 11, 13, 17, 26, 1768. 


from mob violence. It had not, however, openly taken 
liberties with the charter to the extent of encroaching 
on executive prerogative. But in 1768 the party machine 
which enjoyed so much power, both in the town meeting 
and in the General Court, tried to call a meeting of the 
assembly after its dissolution by Governor Bernard. In 
June of that year the cargo of the Liberty, one of John 
Hancock's sloops, had been landed without payment of 
duty, and the offense was magnified in the eyes of the 
British officials by the owner's boasts before the act 
itself occurred. The vessel was seized by the customs 
officials, who were in turn attacked by a mob. The 
officers themselves were stoned, the windows of their 
houses broken, and the collector's boat was dragged up 
to the Common and burned.^^ It was this manifestation 
of lawlessness which seems to have led to the final deci- 
sion to send British troops to Boston. Although the 
General Court was in session at the time of the riot, 
Bernard dissolved it a few days thereafter. Acting upon 
instructions from home, he had peremptorily ordered 
the House to rescind its circular letter, and the House 
stubbornly refused to yield. After an interchange of 
messages which fairly bristled with bitter feeling on both 
sides, the governor put an end to the life of that particu- 
lar assembly, and after the riot he refused to comply with 
the demands of the town of Boston that writs for a new 
election be issued.^^ 

Thereupon followed an act that bordered close on 
revolution, namely, the attempt on the part of the politi- 
cal leaders of Boston to summon an assembly on their 
own responsibility. After their fruitless calls upon the 
governor, the town authorities voted to appoint repre- 
sentatives to a ''Committee of Convention." The call 

18 Boston Evening Post, June 30, 1768. 

iQ Boston Town Eecs., XVI, 260; Journal Mass. H. of E., June 30, 1768. 


was issued to all the other towns in the province to send 
in their representatives. The Boston town meeting 
selected as its delegates the four who looked after its 
interests in the House of Representatives : Otis, Gushing, 
Adams, and Hancock.^" The purpose of the whole thing 
was of course to have a popular, or at least a representa- 
tive, assembly in session when the expected troops 

On the day appointed, September 26, 1768, representa- 
tives to the number of seventy, from about sixty differ- 
ent towns, gathered in Faneuil Hall. For chairman the 
Speaker of the last House, Thomas Gushing, was chosen, 
apparently with the idea of giving a touch of regularity 
to the proceedings." After petitioning Governor Ber- 
nard to issue writs for a new election, the Gonvention 
drafted a set of resolutions, in which illegal intentions 
were disclaimed, and loyalty to the king was righteously 
asserted. Thereupon the work came to an abrupt end, 
and after remaining in session for only a week, the mem- 
bers left for their homes the day after the first troop 
transports arrived at Nantasket.-^ The unexpected mod- 
eration of the leaders, so different from their usual 
demeanor, was due, so Bernard wrote, to the presence 
of many cautious members, who consented to attend for 
the express purpose of restraining the Boston ''Junto." 
Because of the firm stand taken by these men, Samuel 
Adams was silenced when he tried to launch out into the 
violent language to which the House of Representatives 
had become accustomed.'^ The first attempt to bring a 
revolutionary convention into existence was a failure. 

20 Boston Town Bees., XVI, 263. 

21 Boston Evening Post, September 26, 1768; Hutchinson, Hist, of Mass., 
Ill, 208-212. 

22 lUd., Ill, 211. 

23 Boston Evening Post, September 11, 1769, quoting a letter of Bernard 
to Hillsborough, September 27, 1768. 


The importance of this meeting is to be found, not in 
its actual accomplishment, measured in deeds, or even in 
words, but in the fact that it met at all. According to the 
charter, the power of summoning a new assembly before 
the time set for the regular elections, was vested exclu- 
sively in the governor. In effect this "Committee of 
Convention" was really a Provincial Congress, similar 
to the one summoned in 1774. In other words, the 
machinery of the later revolutionary government was 
given an actual trial in 1768. Even though public opin- 
ion was not quite ready to sanction the complete assump- 
tion of governmental authority by the radical leaders, it 
was a recognized fact that all real power was in their 
hands. In reporting on the condition in Massachusetts 
shortly after his arrival. General Gage wrote Hills- 
borough that ''those mad people (the Whig leaders) 
have governed the town and influenced the province a 
very long time. ..." After a careful survey of the 
situation as a whole, he went on : ' ' from what has been 
said, your lordship will conclude that there is no govern- 
ment in Boston, there is in truth very little at present, 
and the constitution of the province leans so much to 
democracy, that the governor has not the power to 
remedy the disorders which happen in it."^* According 
to this statement, the organization, which was a munici- 
pal machine and a legislative committee combined, had 
practically superseded the regular institutions of gov- 
ernment in the colony. To be sure it is difficult to point 
out specific instances of their assumption of regular 
administrative functions, and it is probably true that 
the leaders were aiming, not at the consolidation of the 
executive with the legislature, but rather at the clog- 
ging of the wheels of British officialdom. The natural 

24 Gage to Hillsborough, October 31, 1768, p. 18, in a collection published 
by Edes and Gill. 


outcome of this policy of obstruction would inevitably 
be the rise to power of the committee in the legislature. 
They could not destroy one kind of authority without 
putting something else in its place. 

Even though the main purpose of the ^' Junto" was 
negative rather than positive, in case of need it could take 
definite steps to bring other branches of the government 
under its own control. When the British government 
announced its intention of providing salaries for colonial 
executive and judicial officials out of the royal treasury, 
the local legislatures promptly bethought themselves of 
means to thwart the plan. In Massachusetts the General 
Court did not complain very bitterly when Governor 
Hutchinson reported that he would no longer need the 
salary provided by the colony. There seemed to be a 
general feeling that his power had ceased to be danger- 
ous, and that the province was relieved of an unnecessary 
expense. But the equanimity with which they greeted 
Hutchinson's declaration gave way to excited concern 
when royal salaries were proposed for the justices of 
the Superior Court. After a desultory discussion for 
several weeks, the House of Representatives finally 
announced its policy. In the first place it gave the jus- 
tices an opportunity to declare explicitly whether or 
not they would take advantage of the new provision. If 
they refused to commit themselves, they were to be 
denounced as enemies of their country. In the case of 
any who should prove to be so devoid of patriotism as 
to accept the new salaries, the House declared that it 
would be *Hhe indispensible duty of the Commons of this 
province, to impeach them before the governor and coun- 
cil, as men disqualified to hold the important posts they 
now sustain.'"^ The importance of this threat, involv- 
ing an assumption of power that was radically new, even 

25 Journal Mass. H. of B., June 28, 1773, p. 94. 


in Massachusetts, can hardly be overstated. The House 
possessed no power of impeachment, nor had it any right 
to use the term ''Commons of this province." The epi- 
sode shows clearly enough that the Whigs were deter- 
mined to raise their legislature to the level of the 
Commons in England. 

After making its threat, the House gave the justices 
ample time to ponder over the possible results of a 
refusal to surrender. By February both parties had 
made up their minds. One member of the court, Trow- 
bridge, announced that he would accept no salary paid 
under royal warrant, and his statement was accepted as 
satisfactory by the House. The other judges kept their 
own counsel, and the House voted to demand a definite 
declaration of their intentions within a week. Three of 
the remaining justices thereupon gave the required 
pledge, and agreed to accept the compensation granted 
by the House. Peter Oliver, the chief justice, was the 
only one to stand out, and he took up the challenge of the 
House. After bluntly stating that he had found it 
impossible to live on the niggardly salary provided by 
the legislature, he said that he intended to take advan- 
tage of the new grants. The only answer of the House 
was the institution of impeachment proceedings. For- 
mal articles were drawn up and laid before the Council, 
but Hutchinson prevented definite action by absenting 
himself. Soon afterward he put an end to the contest 
by proroguing the assembly.^'' Thus the impeachment 
itself was a failure, but in spite of that the real victory 
lay with the House. Four justices had been brought to 
terms, and the attempt to establish an independent judi- 
ciary came to naught. In this whole episode the names 
of the regular Whig leaders constantly recur, particu- 

2e Journal Mass. H. of E., February 1, 2, 7, 8, 24, 1774, pp. 113, 117, 
133-135, 137-139, 194-199. 


larly in the committees appointed to draft the numerous 
resolutions and messages. The work was certainly car- 
ried on under their supervision, and they were undoubt- 
edly responsible for its direction. The net result of their 
victory, for such it was, was to bring the Superior Court 
under the control of the Boston "Junto." 

The effect of this bitter political contest upon the 
administration can easily be imagined. Even as early 
as 1769, Governor Bernard was utterly discouraged. 
According to his testimony, and he was in a position to 
know, the royal executive in Massachusetts had become 
a mere cipher. His analysis of the situation in a letter 
to Barrington is an illuminating commentary on the 
strength of the Whig party leaders. "In short, my 
Lord," he wrote, "this Government is now brought to 
this state, that if the Cheifs of the Faction are not pun- 
ished or at least so far censured as to be disqualified 
from holding Offices," if the appointment of the Council 
is not given to the king, and if the crown officials are not 
given salaries independent of the people, "It signifies 
little who is Governor. Whoever he is, he must either 
live in perpetual contention in vainly endeavoring to 
support the royal Rights, or he must purchase Peace by 
a prudential Sacrifice of them. But for these 4 years 
past so uniform a system of bringing all Power into 
the Hands of the People has been prosecuted without 
Interruption & with such Success that all Fear Rever- 
ence, Respect & Awe which before formed a tolerable 
Ballance against the Power of the People, are annihil- 
ated & the artificial Weights being removed, the royal 
Scale mounts up and kicks the Beam. And I do assure 
your Lordship that if I was to answer to his Majesty 
himself on this Subject, I would give it as my Opinion 
that if he cannot secure to himself the Appointment of 
the Council, it is not worth while to keep that of the 


Governor. For it would be better that Mass Bay should 
be a complete Republic like Connecticut than to remain 
with so few Ingredients of royalty in it as shall be insuffi- 
cient to maintain the real royal character."" After the 
new elections he wrote again, in a still more melancholy 
tone. ''Tomorrow the new Assembly meets, which will 
be allmost wholly composed of the Tools of the Faction. 
Many of the Friends of Government have been turned 
out ; Many have declined serving ; the few who will be in 
the House will be only Spectators. So that the Faction 
will have everything in their hands. "^^ 

Bernard's pessimistic prophecy was fulfilled when the 
legislature assembled. At the very beginning of the ses- 
sion, before choosing the Speaker and clerk, the House 
appointed two committees, composed of the Whig lead- 
ers, to draw up resolutions against meeting under the 
guns of the troops. The resolutions were brought in at 
once, ready made beforehand.^" After transacting that 
business before they were formally organized, the mem- 
bers chose their officials, and then turned to the election 
of the Council. The characteristics of those chosen, and 
incidentally the state of mind of Governor Bernard, can 
be gathered from the fact that out of the twenty-eight 
named, he outdid his previous efforts, and negatived 

Bernard, who had been recalled, left the province in 
July, 1769, and turned over his office to Thomas Hutchin- 
son. By that time the position had become more of an 
embarrassing liability than a valuable asset. The vio- 
lent controversies of the preceding years had com- 
pletely alienated the legislature from the royal governor, 
and had virtually transferred all real authority from the 

27 Channing & Coolidge, Barrington-Bernard Corresp., p. 197. 
2»Ibid., 203-205. 

29 Mass. H. Journal, May 31, 1769, pp. 5-7. 

30 Ibid., p. 9, 


executive to the General Court. Partisan bitterness was 
thus bringing about an important change in the govern- 
ment itself. 

Hutchinson retained his post until 1774. When he 
sailed for England he said that the governor had noth- 
ing left but an empty title.^^ It is clear that the colonial 
administrative system of Great Britain had completely 
broken down in Massachusetts. While it is difficult to 
point to specific instances of the assumption by the legis- 
lature of the governor's prerogative, nevertheless we 
have the statements of two retiring executives that all 
the attributes of authority had passed to the leaders of 
the assembly. Even the British government took this 
view of the situation. Hutchinson was succeeded by 
General Gage, in the capacity of military governor. This 
appointment is in itself evidence enough that the state- 
ments of Bernard and Hutchinson had been taken at 
their face value. Authorized civil government had come 
to an end, and the instrument responsible for the change 
was the Boston '^ Junto." 

Gage's commission marked the end of all pretense of 
cooperation between colony and home government. 
Events moved rapidly after he attempted to take charge, 
and in October, 1774, the first Provincial Congress met 
in Massachusetts. The de facto government established 
was on the surface very different from the system pro- 
vided for in the charter. The governor and council were 
dropped, and executive authority was vested in or 
assumed by a committee of safety, composed of the lead- 
ing members of the Congress. In reality, however, no 
sudden or abrupt change had taken place, because the 
evidence shows that the charter had been virtually super- 
seded before 1774. The Provincial Congress was merely 
the House of Representatives under a new name, and 

31 Hutchinson, 'Hist, of Mass., Ill, 455. 


tlie committee was the ** Junto." The revolutionary gov- 
ernment had gradually grown up within the old, and in 
due time supplanted it; its acceptance was simply the 
recognition of an accomplished fact. In the process 
of transition from colony to state, the party organ- 
ization in the legislature was the most effective and 
important, as well as the most conspicuous factor. 

In Virginia a similar development was taking place, 
and the process of stripping power from the governor 
was not so very different from that just described in 
Massachusetts. In 1754, when trouble with the French 
and Indians seemed imminent, Governor Dinwiddle did 
his utmost to arouse in the legislature an appreciation 
of the seriousness of the approaching crisis, and to 
induce the members to provide funds and troops for an 
active campaign. His endeavors to secure appropria- 
tions were constantly thwarted by the opposition in the 
House, and it appears that this opposition was directed 
by a committee very much like the ''Junto" in Massachu- 
setts. On January 14, 1754, the assembly met, but to 
Dinwiddle's distress they were "very much in a Repub- 
lican way of thinking," so that they did "not act in a 
proper Constitutional way. ..." Finally, "with great 
Perswasions, many Argum'ts and much Trouble, they 
were prevail 'd on to vote 10000£ for protecting our 
Frontiers; That Bill was so clogg'd with unreasonable 
regulat's and Encroachm'ts on the Prerogative, that I, 
by no means, w'd have given my assent to it if His My's 
Service had not immediately call'd for a Supply to sup- 
port the Expedt. I have in view, to support His My's 
just rights to the Lands on the Ohio. They plead Prece- 
dents in raising money in this Method, w'ch I found 
was so in my Predecessor's Time. . . . This I urg'd sh'd 
not be a Precd't as it's contrary to His My's Int't, how- 
ever, as the Exigency of the pres't Affair c'd not be 


Otherways supplied, I was oblig'd to submit, and for 
that reason I hope I shall stand excused, ' "^ The heinous 
sin which the Burgesses committed, in the governor's 
eyes, was the addition to this bill of a clause which gave 
authority over the expenditure of the money appro- 
priated to a committee named in the bill. ''This Bill," 
wrote Dinwiddle later on, ' ' takes from me the undoubted 
right I have of directing the Applicat'n of the Money 
rais'd for the Defense of the Dom'n. . . .'"^ 

This determination of the House to restrict the power 
of the governor was brought into prominence again, when 
the members attempted to prevent Dinwiddle from col- 
lecting a fee of one pistole for signing and sealing land 
patents. The Burgesses protested against the fee, and 
the governor replied to the effect that his instructions 
had authorized the collection of the fee. This was a 
serious matter to the House, and the members planned 
to carry the dispute before the home government. For 
this purpose they appointed Peyton Randolph as their 
agent, and voted to pay him £2,500. The Treasurer was 
ordered to make this payment, even though the governor 
and Council should refuse their assent. Robinson, who 
served in the dual capacity of Speaker and Treasurer, 
declared that he would make the payment if the House 
authorized him to do so, but at the last moment his 
courage failed him. Finally the favorite colonial device 
of a rider was adopted. The governor wanted £20,000 
more for military purposes. To a bill making the desired 
appropriation, the House attached a clause authorizing 
the payment to Randolph.^* Dinwiddle declared that the 
use of the rider was unconstitutional, and rather than 
accept defeat in this case, he prorogued the legislature 

32 Dinwiddle Papers, I, 98, 100. 

33 lUd., I, 156. 

34 Dinwiddle 's story of this affair is told in a series of letters, Dinwiddle 
Papers, 1, 44-47, 140-141, 160-161, 298-301, 307. 


without getting his money. He wrote to Abercrombie 
that ' ' There is such a Party and Spirit of Opposition in 
the lower Ho. y't it's not in the Power of the Gov'r to 
suppress, unless he is to prostitute the rules of Gov't, 
and act inconsistent with his Instruct 's. I have really 
gone thorow monstrous fatigues, w'ch I sh'd not much 
regard if I c'd answer the Com'ds of His M'y, but such 
wrong headed People (I thank God) I never had to do 
with before. "^^ 

After this outburst of righteous indignation, Din- 
widdie waited until the following year before he made 
any further requests upon the House of Burgesses. The 
recess, however, had soured rather than sweetened the 
tempers of the members. The discouraged executive 
wrote that ''Our Assembly met the 29th Ult'o, but not 
above one-half of them gave their Attendance. They fell 
into Cabals . . . They further propos'd a Secret Com- 
mittee, w'ch in course w'd have been the Beginning of 
great Dissentions. They were likewise very mutinous 
and unmannerly. ' ' Dinwiddle thereupon dissolved them, 
and took the chance of an improvement after a new elec- 
tion. At least, he wrote, the new House ''cannot be as 
bad as the last."^^ 

Dinwiddle's complaints serve to bring out some of the 
characteristics of the House of Burgesses and its inter- 
nal organization. The "Secret Committee" which he 
referred to was probably not unlike the "Junto" in 
Massachusetts. Some such organization was evidently 
guiding the House in its attempts to limit the power of 
the executive in military and financial affairs. Then as 
the authority of the House was gradually extended, the 
importance of the Speaker-treasurer was greatly en- 
hanced. Governor Dobbs of North Carolina even went 

85 Binwiddie Papers, I, 300. 
36 Ihid., II, 273. 


so far as to assert that * ' the Speaker as Treasurer rules 
the assembly."" 

An analysis of the standing committee appointments 
in Virginia brings out the interesting fact that member- 
ship in those important groups was largely restricted to 
the representatives from the tidewater counties. What 
little evidence there is points to the control of legisla- 
tive business by a ''ring," composed of the conservative 
planters who really governed Virginia. Robinson's 
power as Speaker rested partly on his control of finance, 
and partly on his influence with this inner committee. 

It was not only in the large legislatures of Massachu- 
setts and Virginia that there appeared these manifesta- 
tions of political manipulation. Even in Georgia the 
assembly was effectively managed by a group opposed 
to the governor. On one occasion in 1756 the executive 
tried to put a stop to further proceedings on a certain 
measure by sending a message to the Speaker ordering 
him to adjourn the House. After the manner of colonial 
legislatures, that body showed nothing but contempt for 
his command. The Speaker's report of the episode is an 
illuminating commentary on colonial legislative methods. 
The governor sent in his message at ''about Elleven of 
the Clock in the forenoon. ... As I took hold of it and 
was going to rise it was seized in my hand by one of the 
Members who said that I should not get it or should not 
read it or Words to that Effect. I strugled for it, for 
some time but was Obliged to Yield it Otherwise it would 
have been torn I then stood up and declared that I 
thought I had no right to set there as I was firmly per- 
suaded the House was adjourned and that nothing that 
could be done after that would be deem'd Valid and 
therefore would leave the Chair then all or most of them 
arose up and said they would Oblige me to keep the Chair 

37 N. C. Col. Bees., V, 949. 


that I had no right to leave it without the consent of the 
House, That the House was not or could not be adjourned 
untill the Message was given at the Clerks table Read 
by him and then adjourned by the Speaker that they 
would set and Oblige me to set untill Twelve of the Clock 
at night if the Business that was then on hand was not 
finished before Many times afterwards I rose in order 
to leave the chair and told them over and over that I 
could not set or Act longer that we was no sitting Assem- 
bly that every thing must be void that we did, but was 
always Obliged to set down again They appointed Sev- 
eral Committees I refused to chuse the Members they 
chuse them themselves They did Several other Things 
but I had no hand in them I kept silent, They read and 
past a paper to address to his Excellency and offer 'd it 
to me to sign which I absolutely refused (as I thought the 
Assembly was adjourned) But they told me in a Com- 
manding and Peremptory manner Sir you shall sign it 
we will Oblige you to sign it you have no Right Sir to 
refuse to sign anything that passes this House I again 
told them I did not look upon this as a House at present 
but all I could say was to no purpose I was Obliged to 
sign it tho' I Publickly declare at the same time that I 
was forced to do it that it was intirely Contrary to my 
inclinations. ' '^® 

The material outlined in this chapter bears out the 
statement already made, to the effect that there always 
are two types of organization in the average legislature : 
the official, and the informal. The one looks after routine 
work connected with legislative operations proper, while 
the other decides what business shall be transacted in 
any given session. Both forms are necessary, but the 
more important is the party machine. Without such 
leadership the assemblies would degenerate into mere 

38 Ga. Col. Eecs., XIII, 100-101. 


debating contests, with no power of constructive action. 
Undoubtedly a minute study of any colonial legislature 
would yield results similar to those described here. In 
at least two colonies, New York and North Carolina, the 
power of the party committees was even greater than in 
Massachusetts or Virginia, and the leaders in the legis- 
latures were actually transacting considerable business 
that really belonged to the executive. 


The following list of committees on important subjects appointed in the 
House of Representatives in 1766-1767 shows how business was controlled 
by the Boston members and a few other active Whigs. The names of the 
Boston members are in capitals, and those of their party associates in 


May 29. On the governor's speech: Gushing, Otis, Adams, Partridge, 
Eawley, Saunders, Dexter. 

June 3. On the governor's message: Gushing, Otis, Adams, Eawley, 
Partridge, Bowers. 

June 4, To thank the king for the repeal of the Stamp Act: Gushing, 
Worthington, Otis, Adams, Partridge, Dexter, Bourne. 

June 10. To write to the agent, defending the course of Massachusetts 
during the Stamp Act agitation : Gushing, Adams, Otis, Eawley, Partridge. 

June 11. To make arrangements for opening the debates in the House 
to the public: Hancock, Otis, Adams. 

June 24. To reply to the governor with reference to an indemnity for 
those who had suffered in the Stamp Act riots: Gushing, Adams, Dexter, 
Saunders, Richmond. 

October 30. To report on the legality of the act of the governor in 
causing certain Acts of Parliament to be printed in the province law book: 
Sheaf e, Otis, Dexter. 

October 30. On certain proclamations of the governor: Gushing, Otis, 
Hancock, Sheaf e, Dexter. 

October 31. On the governor's speech, regarding indemnity: Gushing, 
Otis, Eawley, Dexter, Hancock, Sheaffe, Bowers. 

November 5. To reply to the governor 's speech : Eawley, Dexter, Bowers, 
Adams, Johnson. 

To report on certain acts of the customs officials: Otis, Dexter, Eancock. 

November 6. To frame the indemnity bill: Gushing, Eawley, Otis, 
Ruggles (an active Hutchinson man), Dexter, D wight, Sheaffe. 

November 13. To report on trade: Gushing, Otis, Hancock, Adams, 
Sheaffe, Dexter, Brown, Hall, Boardman. 

On letter from Shelburne: Gushing, Otis, Hancock, Brown, Adams. 


December 5. On resolutions regarding the indemnity bill: Eawley, Otis, 

December 7. On trade: Gushing, Bourne, Sheaffe, Greenleaf, Brown, 
Foster, Warren. 

December 9. On royal troops: Gushing, Otis, Sheaffe, Adams, Dexter. 


February 3. On the governor's message regarding royal troops: Gush- 
ing, Otis, Eawley, Sheaffe, Adams, Dexter, "Ward. 

February 13. On the governor's message regarding the agent's salary: 
Otis, Sheaffe, Dexter, Adams, Warren, 

February 27. On the governor's message regarding Newfoundland 
fisheries: Otis, Adams, Ward, Bowers, Gerrish. 

March 3. To write to the agent regarding Hutchinson's attempt to sit 
in the Gouncil after he had been dropped from that body: Eawley, Otis, 
Adams, Sheaffe, Bowers. 

March 18. To write to the agent: Adams, Dexter, Euggles. 




In the history of these colonial assemblies two facts 
stand out very clearly : first, the lower house was almost 
constantly engaged in a more or less serious controversy 
with the executive; second, in the assembly there devel- 
oped a form of unofficial organization more important 
than that provided for by the rules. This condition of 
friction tended to become chronic, and as a result the 
party committee became more and more powerful. At 
first it was nothing but a check on the governor ; it might 
bring the wheels of government to a standstill, but it had 
not acquired very much positive authority. A deadlock 
in government, however, cannot last indefinitely; one 
party or the other will eventually get the upper hand, 
and in this case the legislature proved to be the victor. 
As time went on the popular branch of the government 
began to rise above the executive, and to dominate it. 
The governor's hands were tied, and then some of his 
power was taken over by the assembly. By controlling 
the salaries of colonial officials, and by dictating certain 
appointments, the lower house acquired considerable 
influence in administrative affairs. But executive busi- 
ness cannot well be handled by the whole legislature, so 
the "Junto," which had long been the directing force in 
legislative work, took charge of these new duties. When 
a committee of prominent assemblymen makes up the 
legislative program and also supervises and controls the 


executive, the resulting form of government is closely 
akin to the parliamentary system of England. 

In New York the "Junto" developed early, and even 
before 1750 it had become so conspicuous and so influ- 
ential that the governor was thoroughly alarmed. In 
1747 Clinton sent to the Board of Trade a detailed 
description of the government of the colony as it was 
actually carried on. According to him, a certain Mr. 
Horsmanden was a ''principal Actor in the Faction, that 
had been formed in the Province to distress the Governor 
and to gain the administration both. Civil and Military 
into their own hands." Concrete evidence of the power 
of this ' ' Faction " is to be found in ' ' the constant meeting 
of a Committee of the Council and Assembly, who never 
made any report of their proceedings, tho' the resolu- 
tions of both. Council and Assembly were directed by 
them. ..." Mr. Horsmanden was a member of this 
committee, and drew up most of the papers prepared by 
it. In working out its plans, the "Faction" tried to cur- 
tail all supplies, and in addition it influenced the Assem- 
bly to place all public funds at the disposal of their own 
"Dependants," so that the governor might be deprived 
of all power over expenditures. More important still, 
they had induced the Assembly to assume full control 
of the appointment of administrative officials, and of the 
payment of their salaries. The governor was not even 
consulted in these matters.^ 

A careful analysis of the situation as described in this 
report shows that the "Faction" was more than a petty 
political machine. It was actually the directing force 
in the government. Party leaders in the legislature were 
trying, with considerable success, to extend their power 
over the executive department. 

1 N. Y. Col. Does., VI, 670-671, September, 1747, abstract of evidence 
in the books of the Board of Trade. 


References to the aims, operations, and successes of 
the '' Faction" appear in later letters of the governors. 
In 1751, Clinton wrote to the Board of Trade that *'the 
Faction in this Province continue resolute in pursuing 
their scheme of assuming the whole executive powers 
into their hands, and that they are willing to risk the 
ruin of their country, in order to carry out their pur- 
poses."- Golden reported practically the same situation 
in 1765.^ 

As the leaders in this attack upon the governor gained 
more experience, their methods became more systematic 
and effective. Money was granted and paid out under 
the authority of the Speaker of the Assembly instead 
of the governor. Salaries of royal officials were pared 
down, while the adherents of the ''Faction" were liber- 
ally rewarded for their loyalty.* 

This assumption of financial power by the Speaker was 
a perfectly natural result of the increasing importance 
of the Assembly. Formerly, and legally, payments were 
made under authority of the governor's warrant. With 
the popular branch of the legislature in control of 
finance, however, it was to be expected that the official 
leader of that body would act as its agent in making 
payments. The Speaker was not exactly the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, but it would have taken only a few 
more years of uninterrupted development to have placed 
him in such a position. 

By 1766 financial operations had become so well sys- 
tematized that Colden could make the following explicit 
statement: "The ruleing Faction gain an absolute 
influence over the officers of Government by the Sallary 
of every officer being every year voted or appointed by 

2 N. Y. Col. Docs., VI, 751, 752. 

3 Ihid., VII, 705-706. 

4 lUd., VI, 764-765. 


the Assembly, lessened or encreased, or refused, as they 
like the Man in office, and the Fund is yearly raised & 
applied for that purpose."^ It does not require very 
much imagination to guess how this power would affect 
the administrative system in general, and the governor's 
position in it in particular. 

Golden likewise sent to England a report in which he 
described the component parts of this powerful political 
organization. He said in the first place that there were 
four different groups or social classes in the colony: 
the proprietors of the large estates, the lawyers, the 
merchants, and the small farmers and mechanics. The 
first two groups, he wrote, were closely affiliated through 
family ties. Then he went on to explain how the lawyers 
were able to dominate the legislature. "The Gentlemen 
of the Law some years since entered into an association 
with intention among other things to assume the direc- 
tion of Government by the influence they had in the 
Assembly, gained by their family connections and by the 
profession of the Law, whereby they are unavoidably 
in the secrets of many Families — many Court their 
Friendship, & all dread their hatred. By this means, tho' 
few of them are Members, they rule the House of 
Assembly in all Matters of Importance. The greatest 
number of the Assembly being Common Farmers who 
know little either of Men or Things are easily deluded 
& seduced." 

"By this association, united in interest & family 
Connections with the proprietors of the great Tracts of 
Land, a Domination of Lawyers was formed in this 
Province, which for some years past has been too strong 
for the Executive powers of Government."® 

These quotations suggest the conclusion that the 

5 Golden, Letters, II, 90. 

6 Ibid., II, 68-78. 



''Faction," or unofficial legislative committee, was really 
a Cabinet in a small way. It certainly impressed its 
policies on the legislature, and if Clinton and Colden 
can be trusted, it had contrived not only to control the 
administration, but also to make the officials responsible 
and subservient to itself. It is perfectly evident that 
the system of government was very different from any- 
thing provided for by charter, and also wholly unlike 
the state governments established after the Revolution. 
The real significance of this development was, however, 
not apparent to the constitution makers of the latter 
part of the eighteenth century. 

Another excellent example of government by "Junto" 
is to be found in North Carolina. In that colony the 
strife between executive and legislature had been even 
more bitter than in New York, and the popular branch 
as usual got the better of the governors. Methods of 
political manipulation had reached a highly developed 
stage there, and the leaders of the House would compare 
favorably with the expert managers in New York. In 
this case, too, there was something more than mere 
machine control; a new type of government was taking 
shape, the distinguishing feature of which was the 
supremacy of the majority leaders in the legislature. 

In 1757 the "Junto" in North Carolina was directed by 
four members of the Council, who entered into a gentle- 
men's agreement to work together. Because of the small 
size of the upper house, four men acting in common could 
easily secure control. To get the necessary support in 
the lower house, they allied themselves with the fairly 
compact following of John Starkey, one of the Treas- 
urers. He had taken upon himself the responsibility of 
paying the members their salaries, and like a good 
politician he made the most of his opportunities. By 
judiciously advancing money or delaying payment, 


according to the nature of the individual case, he con- 
trived to put enough members under obligation to himself 
so that he could be sure of their votes when wanted. As 
Governor Dobbs wrote, he could use his power as he 
pleased, "so that all the low members who want a supply 
follow him like chickens so that he sways the House 
against the most sensible members in it.'" Murray, one 
of the four councillors, drafted bills for this aggregation. 
When their measures happened to be of such a nature 
that they were assured of the governor's veto in advance, 
they were attached to revenue bills, in the shape of 
riders. Thus if their favorite measures were defeated, 
they at least had the satisfaction of blocking the plans 
of others.^ 

In North Carolina the ''Junto" had become so firmly 
established that its continued existence was not depend- 
ent upon any particular group of members. On the 
contrary, it had grown into a permanent institution, 
which continued to live on in spite of changes in per- 
sonnel. In 1760 the legislature was dominated by a 
group of lawyers, whose object at that particular time 
was to get control of the new superior court. Child, the 
attorney-general, secured a following by promising 
rewards to influential members in both chambers. To 
Samuel Swann he promised one of the justiceships in 
the court to be created. Swann approved of the plan, 
whereupon he was put in as Speaker of the House. Then 
the ''Junto" framed a bill for establishing a superior 
court, in which they imposed such ingenious restrictions 
for the judicial positions that only three men could 
qualify : Speaker Swann, Barker, and Jones, all intimate 
friends of Child, the chief operator. In order to make 
sure of the governor's assent, the "Junto" refused to 

7 N. C. Col. Eccs., V, 945-954. 

8 Ibid., VI, 40-41. 


pass any revenue bill until the court bill had been ap- 
proved. Thus at one stroke the "Junto" was depriving 
the governor of his appointing power, and also extending 
its power over the court.^ 

In the fall session of the same year the organization 
again differed slightly in membership, but the methods 
used were very much the same. In this instance the 
controlling committee was composed of Samuel Swann, 
the Speaker, his brother John in the Council, and 
Starkey, the Treasurer. The chief issue was the choice 
of a new colonial agent, and the "Junto" was anxious to 
dictate the appointment. To guard against mishaps they 
inserted in the tax bill a clause which would give the 
position to their candidate. In the meantime, a new 
Treasurer was to be appointed, for the northern district, 
and the bill for that purpose was kept back until the 
leaders in the House could learn how the Council voted 
on the tax bill, with its agent rider. It was understood 
that if Rieusset, a councillor, voted favorably, he would 
receive the office of Treasurer by way of reward. With 
his vote the tax bill passed the Council by a bare majority 
of one, whereupon his name, according to agreement, was 
inserted in the bill for appointing the treasurer." 

The power of the "Junto" in the legislature was partly 
secured through the control of the standing committees ; 
in fact, they became mere instruments in the hands of 
the leaders, by means of which their authority could be 

9 N. C. Col. Eecs., VI, 243-251. Dobbs to the Board of Trade. The Jour- 
nal of the House indicates that Dobbs was telling the truth. The committee 
which framed the court bill was composed of Dewey, Child himself, and 
Barker, one of the three who hoped to profit by the bill. Dewey was appar- 
ently the lawyer referred to in Dobbs ' letter, p. 245, although it is not clear 
whether he was one of the "Junto" or not. VI, 367. Jones, Barker, and 
Starkey, all members of the "Junto," formed the committee which framed 
the tax bill. VI, 392, 396. 

10 2V. C. Col. Eecs., VI, 319-324; cf. House Journal in same volume. Tax 
bill brought in November 17, passed third reading November 26; bill for 
appointing the treasurer brought in November 29, pp. 479, 497, 502. 


more conveniently exercised. In 1760 the committees on 
elections and on grievances were composed of the friends 
of the "Junto," together with a few others who had been 
put on to save appearances, and the proceedings in the 
committee of grievances were kept secret." Moreover, 
the standing committees of accounts and claims were 
completely controlled by the House, and therefore by the 
''Junto." The House usually appointed so many mem- 
bers to these joint committees that the Council could not 
hope to get an even representation.^^ 

This form of government seems to have been firmly 
established in North Carolina, for as late as 1773 
Governor Martin complained of the very same thing, 
although in language more uncomplimentary than any 
ever used by the gentle Dobbs. He asserted that the 
North Carolina House consisted, for the most part, "of 
men in the lowest state of ignorance, that are gulled 
into absurdities by a few artful and designing men, 
influenced by selfish and interested motives, who lead 
them implicitly into their views by representing every 
salutary proposition of Government as injurious and 
oppressive . . . ; the poor misguided herd renounce out 
of the House the sentiments they have but the moment 
before blindly concurred in . . ." Again he refers to 
"the few mischievous, but too successful Demagogues 
who have hitherto governed the Assembly. . . ."^^ 

The ' ' Junto ' ' was the natural, inevitable product of an 
extended controversy between representatives of two 
different sources of authority. The causes of this quar- 
rel are fairly evident. Friction would be sure to arise 
between the two powers, popular and royal. Colonial 
political leaders did not permit imperial problems to 

11 N. C. Col. Bees., VI, 243-251. 

12 Ibid., VI, 319-324. For the committee appointments see ibid., V, 1043, 
VII, 345. 

13 Ibid., IX, 698-699. 


weigh very heavily upon their minds, and their point of 
view was naturally somewhat provincial. With that 
supreme self-confidence so characteristic of the new 
world they felt that they were perfectly competent to 
attend to their o\vn affairs, and they viewed with sus- 
picion the attempts of the royal governors to obey 
instructions from across the water. Their problems were 
local, and if their interests sometimes conflicted with 
imperial policy, so much the worse for the empire. If 
new administrative measures or new revenue laws 
seemed likely to have an unfavorable effect upon their 
comfort or material prosperity, they could be depended 
upon to protest with vehemence if not with actual 

In addition to those weightier causes of difference, 
personal rivalry and ambition played no inconsiderable 
part in generating friction. Then as now aspiring politi- 
cians were always on the lookout for issues by means of 
which they might rise to positions of prominence. To be 
sure there were opportunities for advancement in the 
king's service, as the careers of Hutchinson and the 
Olivers in Massachusetts clearly prove. But royal 
appointments were relatively scarce, and rotation in 
office was not an approved policy in those days. Jeffer- 
son's disconsolate complaint concerning officers in the 
civil service, that few die and none resign, would have 
been applicable to the colonial administrative system. 
Then, too, even the available places were not always open 
to those ambitious but obscure young men who happened 
to be without wealth, social standing, and influence in 
high places. It was to men of this type that the lower 
house of the assembly particularly appealed. The leader 
of the party opposed to the administration might become 
just as prominent and fully as powerful as the governor 


himself, and in addition he would be entirely free from 
any embarrassing obligations to crown appointees. 

As the champion of local interests, the popular branch 
of the assembly naturally assumed the leadership in 
opposing the governor. In a way the aggressive activity 
of this body was both a cause and a result of the political 
friction. It was constantly trying to restrict the field of 
executive action, while at the same time it was carried on 
to positions of greater prominence by the rising tide of 
the struggle. This steady advance of the lower house is 
one of the most important facts in colonial history of 
the eighteenth century, as well as one of the important 
causes of the American Kevolution. By 1760 it had 
gotten into the habit of going its own way, and of doing 
very much as it pleased, with little or no regard for the 
advice or the recommendations sent down by the execu- 

It seems fairly evident now that the royal regulations 
and plans for colonial government are very unsafe guides 
in a study of the systems actually in operation. Theo- 
retically no change had taken place since the establish- 
ment of the royal colonies, but the form alone was left. 
In practice the governor had really ceased to be the head 
of the executive department. If his recommendations 
were not treated with open contempt, they were silently 
ignored, and his authority in administrative circles had 
almost disappeared. When he vainly tried to oppose the 
legislature in its attacks upon his prerogative, he was 
subjected to the additional and intensely real incon- 
venience of going without his salary. 

In brief, the assembly and the governor fought it out, 
to determine where ultimate authority resided, and the 
assembly won. That meant a transfer of power from 
the representative of the prerogative to the popular 
house. That body itself was too clumsy to perform the 


duties which it had seized. Some device was needed 
which could guide it in its deliberations and control it in 
its action, and at the same time look after matters of 
finance and administration. These obligations were 
assumed by the leaders of the majority, the very ones 
who were instrumental in building up the power of the 
house at the governor's expense. As a result the line 
of demarcation between the three branches of govern- 
ment almost disappeared, and the control of all depart- 
ments was virtually taken over by a powerful legislative 

The gradual growth of this extra-legal, unauthorized 
form of government in the British colonies takes on a 
new significance when compared with constitutional 
development in England. Similar forces produced the 
Cabinet in one place, and the ''Junto" in another. After 
the kings had been rendered powerless. Parliament, par- 
ticularly the House of Commons, found itself saddled 
with new obligations, for the proper performance of 
which no machinery existed. After winning their vic- 
tories the leaders in the House of Commons naturally 
assumed these new burdens. They had really acquired 
control of the government, and they forced the king to 
recognize that fact by making them his ministers of 

In England the system which had been forced into 
existence by the constitutional conflict was welded into 
permanent form by the peculiar conditions of the first 
half of the eighteenth century. Because of his inability 
to speak English on the one hand, and his gratitude to 
the Whigs on the other, George I was perfectly willing 
to make the party chieftains his ministers, and to turn 
over to them the handling of governmental problems 
which he could never understand. Even then the Cabi- 
net system rested on nothing but a customary basis, and 


it was not until some years after this that the full signifi- 
cance of the new regime was made clear. 

In the colonies this trend in the direction of parlia- 
mentary government had not made as much progress as 
it had in England. Then the Revolution altered the 
course of institutional development, and with one or two 
exceptions put an end to further growth of this kind. 
The change came about largely because the conditions 
responsible for the exaltation of the legislature at execu- 
tive expense had generally disappeared. Royal preroga- 
tive had no longer to be reckoned with, and executive and 
legislature both derived their authority from the same 
source. Dangerous friction was therefore not likely to 
arise. Equally important was the fact that the revolu- 
tionary leaders had even less comprehension of the true 
nature of colonial government than contemporary Eng- 
lishmen had of the Cabinet system. Americans were 
inclined to look upon the "Junto" as an ugly outgrowth 
of disreputable politics, and they justified its use merely 
because it seemed to be the only available weapon of 
defense against the exercise of unjust power. They 
never realized that as an organ of government it might 
have tremendous advantages simply because it was a 
perfectly natural development. 


The years during and immediately after the Revolu- 
tion were characterized by a really extraordinary activ- 
ity in constitution making. By 1789 there were in opera- 
tion the new fundamental laws drafted by eleven out of 
thirteen states, together with the Federal Constitution. 
To this list should be added the Articles of Confedera- 
tion, in effect up to 1789. The constitutions are inter- 
esting, not for their originality, but for the general uni- 
formity of their provisions. They differed only slightly 
from each other, and the forms of government which they 
provided were, mutatis mutandis, very much like the 
regular colonial systems. The Revolution did not cause 
a general breaking away from past governmental tradi- 
tions. People had been fairly well satisfied with their 
institutions as a whole, and they fought, not to alter 
those systems, but to put an end to what they regarded 
as unjust meddling with them. 

After taking steps to protect themselves against out- 
side interference in their affairs, it is not surprising that 
Americans fell back upon familiar precedents in making 
the needed adjustments to changed conditions.^ It 
should be pointed out, however, that the new constitu- 
tions had far more in common with colonial polity as it 

1 For a more detailed comparison of the colonial systems of govern- 
ment with the new constitutions, see Morey, ' ' The First State Constitu- 
tions, " in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 
IV, 201-232. "In their new constitutional enactments there was shown a 
marked degree of conservatism, changes being made only to the extent 
necessary to bring the new governments into harmony with republican 
ideas, without violating too much the recognized traditions of the colonies, ' ' 
p. 219. 


was on paper than with the system of which the ' ' Junto ' ' 
was the central figure. In spite of a reputation for hard- 
headed practicahty, and also in spite of the fact that both 
professional politicians and ordinary voters must have 
done considerably more thinking about the external form 
of their government than they are wont to do, it appears 
that the constitution makers did not take into account, 
or at least did not analyze very carefully, the real signifi- 
cance of that striking discrepancy between governmental 
theory and practice before the war. The rise of the 
"Junto" was accompanied by the practical overthrow of 
the regular systems, and yet the possible bearing of this 
development upon the operation of the new constitutions 
seems hardly to have been considered. The "Junto" 
must have been thought of, not as a normal, rational 
institution, which had come into existence to meet certain 
needs, but rather as the pathological product of a dis- 
eased body politic. Certain it is that not one of the 
constitutions was built up around the principal that a 
powerful legislative committee should control all branches 
of the government. 

The most important change in the situation of the 
Americans, that which made the people, or rather the 
voters, the ultimate authority, had been brought about 
by the war. As a result, the powers of the government 
itself were no longer derived from two different sources. 
The executive department, formerly the mainstay of the 
prerogative, was set off from the legislature in accord- 
ance with the current theory of the separation of powers, 
although in many cases the governor was subject to the 
control of the assembly.^ Then the upper house, which 
had formerly been a part of the royal system, was made 

zChanning, Hist, of U. S., Ill, 459; in the New England States the 
governor was elected by the voters; in New York by £100 freeholders; in 
Pennsylvania, by the Council; elsewhere by the legislature. 



elective.^ Theoretically the governors of the states had 
less authority than their colonial predecessors, but the 
British appointees had rarely measured up to the stature 
of the abstract executive of the charter. Actually the 
new chief magistrates enjoyed just as much, and in some 
cases far more, real power than had been wielded in 
earlier days. 

These alterations, which affected the executive and 
upper house so slightly, hardly touched the lower house 
at all.* The nature and functions of this particular 
institution had been well understood in colonial times, so 
that few changes were required. Theoretically perhaps 
these popular branches had more power than the corre- 
sponding bodies had enjoyed on paper before 1775; 
actually they were probably possessed of less real author- 
ity and influence than those assemblies which governed 
the colonies before the Revolution.^ 

For a brief period after the outbreak of the Revolution 
the internal structure of the legislatures remained almost 
without change. The forms of procedure and organiza- 

3 Morey, op. cit., pp. 221-223. 

* Ibid., p. 220. ' ' In the organization of the Lower House, which had 
always been the most republican branch of the colonial government, there 
were few changes to make, except to give clearer definitions to its structure 
and functions. The lower house, as organized in the first state Constitu- 
tions, was thus a continuation of the lower house which already existed 
in the colonies. ..." 

5 The most important change at first was in size. 

Before 1776 

After 1776 

N. H. . 



(1776) 90 (1784) 




(1776) 200 )1785) 

E. I. 




No change. 

N. Y. . 




N.J. . 






(1776) 60 (1790) 







N.C. . 

No change. 

S.C. . 

. 50. 







tion had been worked out in colonial times by the local 
authorities, unhindered by royal interference or control, 
and because these methods had been generally satisfac- 
tory, they were taken over by the new state legislatures. 
Lawmaking machinery, however, never stays put for any 
great length of time, and even though they withstood the 
great upheaval of the Revolution, the legislatures were 
forced to work out new methods because of the pressure 
of new business and new problems. The war had thrust 
weighty and troublesome burdens upon the assemblies, 
and the return of peace served rather to increase than 
diminish their perplexities. There were claims to be 
investigated, accounts to be settled, taxes to be raised — 
from a people who had just fought a long war partly at 
least to escape such obligations, and commercial arrange- 
ments to be agreed upon between the states themselves 
and with foreign powers. In short, new issues thrust 
themselves forward, and to give them adequate atten- 
tion the assemblies were forced to revise and elaborate 
their procedure. Not all the legislatures were affected 
in the same way, and each worked out its salvation 
according to its own light, but in spite of minor diver- 
gencies, the developments reveal a surprising uniformity. 
The changes consisted partly in further growth along 
lines marked out before the war, and partly in a broaden- 
ing of the scope of committee activity. 

Probably the greatest defect in procedure in the aver- 
age colonial assembly had been the want of time-saving 
schemes for dealing with petitions. Except in Virginia 
they were customarily referred to small select commit- 
tees, and for a few years after the war the old circuitous 
method was continued. As time went on, however, the 
legislatures began to appoint standing committees for 
this work, and in that way the foundations of more 
extensive standing committee systems were laid. 


Even in New Hampshire, where they were almost 
unknown, standing committees were used for a time to 
clear up the large amount of legislative work left by the 
war. When fifty or more petitions were presented in a 
session of only three weeks in length, a new method of 
handling them was obviously needed." As early as 1777 
a joint standing committee was appointed to consider all 
petitions and applications for compensation from sol- 
diers who had met with losses in the war.^ Although 
these committees did not become permanent parts of the 
organization, there were times when large amounts of 
work necessitated the appointment of committees for a 
single session. In 1785, two standing committees were 
appointed, one on the petitions of sick and wounded sol- 
diers, and the other on those of selectmen regarding town 
affairs.^ But for some reason the New Hampshire 
assembly avoided such committees as a matter of general 
practice, and no more on petitions were appointed before 
1790. In 1789 several members who were fully aware of 
the value of the device made a determined attempt to 
have created a regular standing committee on petitions. 
According to the proposal which they made, all applica- 
tions of that kind were to be referred for consideration 
to a joint committee, which should determine whether or 
not they were of suflScient importance to warrant fur- 
ther attention. Rejection of a petition by this committee 
would prevent its receiving any more attention in the 
House. The measure was lost, by a vote of thirty to 
twenty-two, and New Hampshire continued to refer her 
petitions to separate select committees.^ 

In Massachusetts, on the other hand, where the stand- 

6 N. n. state Papers, XX, 413 et seq., session from October 20-November 
11, 1785, fifty petitions were presented. 

7 N. H. Province Papers, VIII, 514. 

8 N. H. State Papers, XX, 344, 346. 

9 Ibid., XXI, 672. 


ing committee idea had taken root before the war, a 
fairly elaborate system had developed by 1790. In 1777 
standing committees were appointed to examine muster 
rolls, accounts, and petitions relating to the sale of land." 
By 1781 the group was enlarged to six, but the legislature 
hesitated to commit itself to a permanent adoption of the 
scheme. In 1785 a committee appointed to consider what 
standing committees were needed, reported ''that it was 
not expedient to appoint any" for that term, and the 
House adopted the recommendation, apparently without 
discussion." The amount of work had not fallen off, but 
New England in general was skeptical on that subject. 
The experience of getting along without them, however, 
must have furnished excellent arguments for their re- 
establishment, for in 1788 the General Court of Massa- 
chusetts had a group of eight. Most of these were 
appointed to handle petitions. There were committees 
on petitions regarding the sale of land, abatement of 
taxes, incorporation of new towns, new trials, and fishing 
in certain rivers ; then there was one on accounts, one on 
finance, and still another on the encouragement of "arts, 
agriculture and manufactures.'"^ By this time it was 
becoming the regular custom to refer all petitions relat- 
ing to one subject to a single committee. 

Massachusetts and New Hampshire represent the two 
extremes of this phase of committee growth. Similar 
developments were taking place at the same time in 
other states, more extensive than that in New Hampshire, 
and generally less so than in Massachusetts. Sometimes 
there would be two or three such committees on petitions, 

10 Mass. E. Journal, May 30, June 2, 1777, pp. 8, 10. 

11 Ibid., May 30, 1785, p. 34. 

12 Zftid., May 31, June 3, 1788, pp. 31-33, 44. This list remained prac- 
tically constant for the next few years. In 1789 a new one, on the naturali- 
zation of aliens, was created, June 1, 1789, p. 49. These committees were 
all joint. 


sometimes only one. But whether the groups of stand- 
ing committees were large or small, they were all mani- 
festations of this general movement, common through- 
out the United States, toward a more efficient method of 
transacting legislative business/^ 

In addition to this work on petitions, many of the state 
legislatures took upon themselves the task of auditing 
and passing upon the numerous accounts presented. 
These included bills of individuals for supplies furnished 
to the state, or for services performed, such as public 
printing, caring for wounded soldiers and the states' 
poor, or transporting goods for the army. In any well 
organized government such matters would naturally be 

13 There were no standing committees in Rhode Island and Connecticut. 

In New York the grand committees were changed into small standing 
committees, and to a certain extent they became active in this work on 
petitions. N. 7. E. Journal, August 25, 1779, p. 6; March 7, 1786, p. 71; 
February 12, 1787, p. 44; July 7, 1789, p. 7. The committee on trade had 
been dropped. 

New Jersey had no standing committee on petitions. 

In Pennsylvania no new committees were appointed for this particular 
kind of work, but the committee on grievances handled petitions. Pa. H. 
Journal, February 26, 1779, p. 323; December 12, 1780, p. 550, 

In Maryland the committee on grievances continued to handle petitions. 
Md. H. Journal, November 13, 1782, p. 5; January 12, 1786, p. 94. Occa- 
sionally a standing committee on all private petitions would be named; 
op. cit., November 14, 1782, p. 6. A new committee on trade and manu- 
factures handled some petitions; op. cit., November 30, 1781, p. 19; Novem- 
ber 29, 1785, p. 27. 

In Virginia the old committees were retained, but petitions regarding 
land titles and probate matters were referred to the committee on courts 
of justice, so that the committee on propositions and grievances was re- 
lieved of some of its work. Va. E. of Del. Journal, 1785, pp. 12, 20, 29, 
38, 57. 

In North Carolina a joint committee on propositions and grievances was 
created in 1781, and was regularly appointed thereafter. It handled nearly 
all the general petitions. N. C. State Bees., XVII, 797. 

In South Carolina from 1787 on there were some standing committees 
on petitions; on grievances, S. C. E. Journal, January 29, 1787, p. 31; on 
religion, ibid., January 30, 1787, pp. 35, 36; on public roads, bridges, etc., 
Hid., January 13, 1791, p. 18; on courts of justice, ibid., pp. 18-19. 

In Georgia there was one standing committee on petitions. Ga. Eevol. 
Bees., Ill, 18, 


referred for verification to officials of the Treasury de- 
partment, but in 1780 the lower house preferred to keep 
the closest possible oversight of all financial transactions. 
Such accounts were at first referred to select committees, 
as petitions had been, but before long standing commit- 
tees were appointed to look after the work. The sanc- 
tion of the committee was necessary before an account 
could be paid. Naturally the committee was busy, so 
busy in fact that arrangements had to be made which 
almost changed its character from a legislative committee 
to an administrative board. In Massachusetts and New 
Jersey, for example, the members of the committee 
received extra pay for their services, and in New Jersey 
a permanent official who was not a member of the House 
at all was appointed to serve on the committee." While 
not quite as common as committees on petitions, com- 
mittees on accounts were to be found in many state 

Standing committees on petitions and accounts had 
not been unknown in the colonial legislatures, and this 
increase in their use simply indicates further develop- 

li Journal Mass. H. of E., May 30, 1778, p. 11; June 12, 1778, p, 26. 
The members of this committee received thirty shillings a day that year. 

N. J. H. Journal, December 12, 1778, p. 63; June 12, 1779, pp. 147-148, 

15 In Ne'v? Hampshire, after the state government was reorganized in 
1784, the committee on accounts was dropped, but there was one before 
that date; N. H. Prov. Papers, VITI, 82-83, 433-434. 

In Massachusetts the committee was in use up to 1790; Mass. PL. Journal, 
July 24, 1775, pp. 9, 46; October 29, p. 208, December 1, pp. 5-6; June 3, 
1776, pp. 22; November 17, 1785, p. 301; May 31, 1788, p. 31. 

In Connecticut, the ' ' Committee of the Pay-Table ' ' was apparently a 
board rather than a legislative committee. Force, Am. Archives, Series 4, 
Vol. Ill, p. 1022; Conn. PL. Journal, May 27, 1779, p. 21. 

New Jersey, E. Journal, September 10, 1776, p. 6; October 24, 1787, 
p. 6. 

Pennsylvania, H. Journal, November 21, 1777, p. 162; March 16, 1791, 
p. 266. 

Maryland, no committee ; the work was probably done by the ' ' Intendant 
of the Revenue," oi by the auditor-general; JI. Journal, November 13, 
1782, p. 6. 


ment along familiar lines. Their value in the transac- 
tion of routine business was so evident that before long 
they were appointed to deal with some of the new prob- 
lems left by the war. Of all the duties which were thrust 
on the legislatures, perhaps the most difficult as well as 
the most disagreeable were those connected with public 
finance. Funds were imperatively needed for both civil 
and military affairs, and the states were poor, and short 
of hard money. Politicians of this era were obliged to 
go slowly in order to retain the good will of their con- 
stituents. In their eagerness to get money without 
unduly burdening the taxpayers, the legislatures at first 
resorted to the printing press, and practically all the 
states were flooded with paper money that depreciated 
almost as fast as it could be issued. To extricate them- 
selves from the entanglements in which this course had 
involved them, the governments tried to alleviate the evil 
by receiving old notes in exchange for new, or by draw- 
ing up ''depreciation tables." All attempts, however, 
to fix the value of one issue in terms of the next were 
fruitless, because none of them could be kept at par long 
enough to serve as a standard. 

After the unsatisfactory nature of these makeshift 
remedies had been clearly demonstrated, the legisla- 
tures were compelled to vote taxes, and to call for their 
payment in real money. Before the war the budget had 
in general been made up by the governor. His recom- 
mendations would be submitted to the assembly, and 
after discussion in committee of the whole house, taxes 
would be voted. But after a few years on a depreciated 

North Carolina, standing committee up to 1779; after that date the 
work was done by auditors; N. C. State Bees., XIII, 915, 916; XVI, 21; 
XIX, 3. 

South Carolina, the committee was used in 1784, and thereafter. S. C. 
H. Journal, February 24, 1784, p. 172; February 25, 1786, p. 130; February 
2, 1787, p. 49. 

Georgia, Bevol. Bees., Ill, 36; 72-73. 


paper basis, the financial affairs of the states were so 
badly involved that no such simple method would answer. 
Careful investigations and estimates had to be made 
before the House could act, and in order to get the neces- 
sary information committees were appointed. In sev- 
eral of the assemblies by 1790 there were to be found 
standing committees on ways and means, on finance, or 
on revenue. 

These predecessors of the modern committees of ways 
and means were coming into general use between 1776 
and 1790. Their evolution is both interesting and impor- 
tant, because it shows how the institution could be 
adapted to new needs. Because there were no colonial 
precedents to serve as guides, the legislatures tried out 
numerous experiments, and as a result the records reveal 
much uncertainty and no little inconsistency with refer- 
ence to the proper relations between committee and 
house. For example, the assembly would appoint a com- 
mittee to '^consider so far as is necessary all money 
matters," and to ''report all such measures as they may 
think expedient to be adopted for providing for the 
exigencies of Government, and for restoring Public 
Credit," and then name a second committee to prepare 
a tax bill, and a third to consider the ''expediency" of 
borrowing money and to report any other feasible 
schemes for supplying the treasury.^^ It was only by 
appointing various committees and assigning to them 
sometimes one kind of work and sometimes several that 
the ways and means committee was finally developed. 
It was the result of experimentation, more or less uncon- 
scious, which lasted over a period of several years. 

In Massachusetts financial affairs were at first re- 

16 Mass. H. Journal, June 4, 22, July 1, 1782, pp. 42, 47, 121, 148-149. 

There was the same uncertainty in New York; H. Journal, September 7, 
18, 1780, pp. 7, 25; the House first appointed a committee of ways and 
means, and then a committee to consider means for supplying the treasury. 


ferred to select committees, and it was not until after 
the reorganization of the government in 1780 that the 
first standing committee of ways and means appeared. 
In the first session held under the new state constitution, 
a committee of nine was appointed by ballot to '' devise 
Ways and Means" to supply the treasury, for military 
purposes and contingent expenses/^ In order that the 
committee might have at its disposal all available 
information, papers from Congress regarding financial 
matters were referred to it.^* 

The very first reports submitted by the committee 
reveal the fact that its appointment was one manifes- 
tation of the spirit of monetary reform. It attacked the 
root of the paper money problem at once, and urged the 
repeal of every act which made bills of credit legal 
tender. Later it proposed that one-seventh of the ' ' new ' ' 
money be bumed.^^ After working through the December 
recess, the committee was ready with more recommen- 
dations. In order to make the reform as effective as 
possible, it urged first, a complete reorganization of the 
treasury department, and then the enactment of a law 
to insure a punctual collection of taxes. ^° Then, coming 
down to the actual task of raising money, it laid the 
budget before the House, so that the members might 
have before them a concise summary of the amounts 
needed for both civil and military affairs.^^ In a few 
additional reports the committee suggested various 
methods of raising money, and gave estimates of the 
probable sums that might be realized from these sources, 
such as, for example, imposts, excise, the sale of public 
lands, and what not. Among other things a lottery was 

17 Mass. H. Journal, November 22, 1780, p. 126, 

isibid., November 23, 1780, January 3, 1781, pp. 133, 268. 

-i-^IUd., December 2, 1780, January 15, 1791, pp. 172-173, 214. 

20 Ibid., January 26, 1781, pp. 254-255. 

21 Ibid., January 9, 1781, p. 196. 


recommended, and also a loan of £400,000 to complete 
the total needed.^^ Of the bills which were drafted to 
carry some of these measures into effect, the one for the 
excise and impost taxes was framed by a special select 
committee, although the rates adopted were those recom- 
mended by the committee of ways and means ; the general 
tax bill was drawn by the standing committee itself.^^ 

Such proposals involved radical reforms in the whole 
department of finance, and apparently the committee 
felt that its plans would be looked upon with disfavor. 
Feeling called upon to justify themselves in the eyes 
of their constituents, the members drew up an address 
to the people at large, describing the actual state of 
affairs, and setting forth the necessity of some such 
action as that recommended.^* Evidently any measure 
calling for the raising and spending of hard money 
would be far from acceptable to the ardent lovers of 

In thus attempting to restore order in the Treasury 
department, the House of Representatives in Massa- 
chusetts gave this first committee of ways and means 
authority to make appropriations as well as to raise 
money, thereby bringing about some degree of unity 
in the financial transactions of the state.^'^ This method, 
so different from the modern haphazard manner of 
raising and spending money in the national House, was 
adopted by the first federal committee of ways and 
means, and was not abandoned until 1861, when the first 
committee on appropriations was created. Thus in 1781 
in Massachusetts the work of making up the budget, 
raising money to meet those demands, preparing the tax 

22 Mass. n. Journal, January 18, 19, 26, 1781, pp. 230, 233, 254-255. 

23 Ibid., January 19, 23, 26, 1781, pp. 232, 242, 254. 
2* Ibid., January 26, 1781, pp. 254-255. 

25 Ibid., January 26, 1781, pp. 254-255. 


bill, and suggesting definite appropriations was all 
attended to by a single committee. 

During the next year, however, instead of one standing 
committee, there was the usual series of select com- 
mittees, none of which had any direct connection with 
any other.-*' In 1782, although a standing committee on 
finance was appointed, much of the work that should 
have been referred to it was done by select committees. 
The standing committee made general suggestions re- 
garding the treasury department, looking toward reform, 
and it made up the budget, but another committee framed 
the tax bill, and appropriations were made by the House 
itself.-^ For the next six years there was no standing 
committee for financial work. In 1788, however, a com- 
mittee on finance was appointed, and the next year a 
committee on revenue. From that time on there seems 
to have been some sort of a standing committee for 
finance every year. In 1789, the committee on revenue 
was appointed to inquire into government expenditures, 
in order to see whether or not any reductions could be 
made; to inquire into the amounts of taxes outstanding, 
and of all other debts due the state; to find out what 
changes in the revenue laws of the state were made 
imperative by the new federal tariff law; to inquire into 
the state of the treasury department and into all state 
offices which were concerned with state finance; to call 
on state officials for papers needed to furnish informa- 
tion; to devise means for increasing the public revenue, 
and to suggest measures for establishing public credit 
on a firm basis.^^ And yet, in spite of this formidable, 

2«Mass. H. Journal, September 13, 18, 21, 1781, pp. 189, 212, 231, 232. 

27 lUd., June 4, 7, 8, 11, 22, July 1, September 30, 1782, pp. 42, 47, 54, 
79, 121, 148-149, 215. A select committee was appointed to prepare the 
tax bill, another to consider the expediency of borrowing money, and to 
consider and report any other measures for supplying the treasury, and 
still another to make up the list of appropriations for the civil list and 
contingent expenses. 


array of work laid before the standing committee, select 
committees were appointed to revise the excise laws, to 
consider the ''expediency of issuing" a tax, the amount 
to be raised, the proportion to be levied in specie, to 
suggest the amount of the poll tax, to bring in the tax 
bill, and finally to consider ways and means for paying 
the civil list.^^ Not once again during the whole period 
was there anything like real unity in the work, as there 
had been in 1780 and 1781. The committee was in 
process of development, and it took shape slowly. 

In Pennsylvania there was a like period of experi- 
mentation, but by 1790 the legislators seemed to have a 
very clear idea of what their committee was expected 
to do. Its reports included a detailed statement of the 
condition of the treasury, with the amounts on hand, 
those likely to be received, and the budget for the year, 
carefully figured out to shillings and pence. A second 
part of the report advocated both foreign and domestic 
loans, and urged that more paper be issued. Finally, it 
made general recommendations regarding the appro- 
priation of the money raised by taxes and the domestic 
loan, suggesting that it be used to pay running expenses, 
warrants drawn by the late executive council, and 
warrants drawn by the governor before that session. 
After some changes had been made in committee of the 
whole, a select committee was appointed to bring in a 
bill for carrying the provisions into effect.'" Thus in 
Pennsylvania the attempts to bring order out of financial 
chaos resulted in the establishment of a systematic, 
businesslike method of handling the problems of revenue 
and expenditure. 

28 Moss. E. Journal, June 3, 1789, p. 41. 

29 Ibid., June 22, 1789, p. 125 ; January 19, 28, February 18, 26, 1790, 
pp. 175, 204, 261, 287. 

30 Po. H. Journal, December 30, 1790, p. 54; January 11, February 8, 
23, 26, March 1, 1791, pp. 84-85, 162, 215, 226-231. 


Another good example of a well-developed committee 
of ways and means was to be found in South Carolina. 
From 1783 to 1790 the committee was regularly used, 
with less uncertainty and more consistency than there 
had been in Massachusetts. In addition to making 
general recommendations regarding the management of 
finance, it made up the budget, proposed new taxes, 
framed tax bills, and suggested appropriations.^^ 

In North Carolina, too, from 1784 to 1790, there was 
an important joint committee on finance or on revenue, 
the duty of which was to collect and lay before the 
assembly information regarding public finance. It made 
up the budget, but revenue bills were framed by the 
all-important committee on public bills.^^ After its 
appointment, the committee on finance divided itself into 
several subcommittees, to each of which was assigned 
a definite share of the work. One division, for example, 
would be concerned with the condition of the revenue, 
and with the budget; another would look up and report 
how the public funds had been used during the preced- 
ing year, while another would report on the condition 
of the foreign debt, and so on. Sometimes there were as 
many as nine of these subcommittees.^^ 

SIS. C. H. Journal, January 25, February 18, 22, 1783, pp. 40, 174- 
175, 202, February 17, 25, 1784, pp. 125, 175; February 18, 1785, pp. 
151-152; February 11, 1786, pp. 43-44; February 25, 1786, pp. 121-125; 
January 25, 1788, p. 64. 

82 In 1786, when the committee on public bills was temporarily deprived 
of some of its functions, the committee on finance did frame the tax bill; 
N. C. State Bees., XVIII, 279, December 6, 1786; ordinarily the committee 
on public bills did the work; XX, 491; XXI, 214. 

For reports of this committee on finance, see N. C. State Bees., XVIII, 
280-282; XXI, 141-147. 

33ivr. C. state Bees., XVIII, 282-283; XXI, 634. 

In Virginia there was a standing committee of ways and means for 
two years only, 1779-1780; it suggested methods of raising money, and 
framed the revenue bills. Va. H. of D. Journal, November 9, December 
10, 15, 1779, pp. 47, 83, 90-91. After 1781, financial measures were brought 
up and discussed in the committee of the whole house. 

In New York, a standing committee of ways and means was regularly 


In addition to the committees for handling petitions, 
accounts, and finance, there were others that fore- 
shadowed the later custom of appointing standing 
committees on matters of general importance in the 
state. After the war the legislatures had time to devote 
their attention to internal affairs, such as manufactures, 
roads, or agriculture, and their increasing interest in the 
general welfare is indicated by the creation of new com- 
mittees. In Massachusetts, for example, in 1788 and 
thereafter, there was a standing committee for the 
encouragement of arts, agriculture, and manufactures.^* 
Similarly in Maryland, a new committee on trade and 
manufactures was appointed, whose duty it was to 
examine proposals for the establishment of manufac- 
tures, and to consider and report the best method of 
starting manufactures, and of promoting trade and 
commerce.^^ In Virginia the committee on trade had 
been allowed practically to die out during the war, but 
in 1783 it was reestablished under the name of the com- 
mittee on commerce.^'' It was ordered to take into 
consideration all matters relating to ''trade, manufac- 
tures, and commerce," and to suggest ''occasionally 
such improvements as in their judgment may be made" 

appointed, but it did little work. In 1779 it drew up the tax bill, and also 
the general appropriation bill, but other important financial work was 
turned over to select committees. N. Y. H. Journal, August 25, 27, Septem- 
ber 21, October 18, 1779, January 27, 1780, pp. 7, 10, 32, 74, 88. In 1787 
the committee of ways and means drew up the annual tax bill, but in other 
sessions, although it was regularly appointed, select committees did the 

In New Hampshire, Ehode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Georgia 
there was no standing committee on ways and means or on finance. 

Si Mass. H. Jmrnal, May 31, 1788, pp. 31-33; June 2, 1790, p. 46. 

35 Md. E. Journal, May 6, 1783, p. 2; November 15, 1785, p. 2. 

36 During the war the committee on trade had almost nothing to do, and 
the work formerly done by the committee on claims was turned over to it. 
In 1783 the name of the committee on trade was formally changed to that 
of the committee on public claims, and a committee on commerce was 
appointed. Va. H. of D. Journal, November 27, 1779, p. 73; May 19, 
1783, p. 12. 



with reference to these interests. In North Carolina for 
two years there was a standing committee on Indian 
affairs, to which was referred business relating to the 
western frontier, but it was dropped after the committee 
on public bills took charge of all public questions of that 
kind." In South Carolina, in 1791, a standing committee 
on '^ Public Roads, Bridges, Causeways, and Ferries" 
was created, to which petitions dealing with such matters 
might be referred.^* 

Along with this increase in the number and variety 
of standing committees there was a corresponding 
enlargement of the field of their activity. During the 
colonial period the House of Burgesses of Virginia was 
the only assembly in which bills were drafted and 
amended by standing committees. After 1776 that 
practice was continued there, and it was also taken up 
in some of the other states, particularly in Massachu- 
setts, New York, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas. As 
the standing committees increased in number it was only 
natural that they should be given work which dealt with 
the actual processes of lawmaking.^^ 

The most interesting and unique change in any 
assembly took place in North Carolina, where a peculiar 
system developed, the outgrowth partly of the regular 
committees in use during the colonial period, and partly 
of the ''Junto." The authority exercised by the in- 
formal committee of party leaders was transferred to 
a regular standing committee, on public bills. The 
members of this new committee were the leaders of the 
legislature, and they formulated the policy to be pursued, 

3T N. C. state Bees., XXI, 12, 211. 

38 S. C. H. Journal, January 13, 1791, p. 18. 

39 The following are not isolated cases, but examples. Mass. H. Journal, 
June 5, 1782, p. 54; June 20, 1789, p. 121. N. Y. H. Journal, February 6, 
1781, p. 11 ; January 29, 1784, p. 20. Pa. E. Journal, February 15, 1781, 
p. 570; January 11, 1791, pp. 84-85. N. C. State Bees., XVIII, 279; XXI, 
45. S. C. H. Journal, February 6, 1784, pp. 72-73. 


and determined what action should be taken on important 
matters. Like the English Cabinet, it was evidently a 
system of ''machine" rule which finally received formal 

This period between 1776 and 1790 rather than before 
is the time when the standing committee really came into 
extensive use. Legislators in several of the states had 
become familiar with the possibilities of the institution, 
and as they began to appreciate its value, they enlarged 
their groups of committees to meet new needs. To be 
sure in some of the states very few changes took place. 
New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut had no 
standing committees in 1790, and the legislatures in New 
Jersey, Maryland, and Georgia were not very well 
supplied. Surprising as it may seem, the system in 
Virginia in 1789 was practically the same as it had been 
in 1769. The standing committees had not increased in 
number, and there was no important variation in the 
kind of work done. Institutions in Virginia were the 
product of a long period of slow, steady development, 
and changes came slowly. The greatest increase in the 
number of committees took place in Massachusetts and 
in South Carolina. In 1775 Massachusetts had only two 
standing committees, while in 1789 she had eight, and 
in South Carolina between 1776 and 1791 the number 
increased from one to six.*^ 

40 Because of its peculiar relation to constitutional history, this com- 
mittee on public bills will receive fuller treatment in the next chapter. 

iiMass. H. Journal, July 24, 1775, p. 9; September 21, 1775, p. 110; 
May 29, June 2, 1789, pp. 21, 35-36, 39, 49. The eight were: committee 
on accounts, on petitions for the abatement of taxes, on petitions for the 
encouragement of agriculture and manufactures, on applications for the 
incorporation of towns, on applications for new trials, on petitions regard- 
ing the sale of real estate, on petitions for naturalization, and on finance. 

S. C. E. Journal, September 18, 1776, p. 7, committee on privileges and 
elections; January 11, 12, 13, 18, 1791, pp. 7, 15, 18-19, 59, committees on 
privileges and elections, accounts, religion, public roads, bridges, etc., courts 
of justice, ways and means. 





Although it brought about practically no direct change 
in the functions or strictly formal organization of the 
lower house, the Revolution did affect that extra- 
constitutional development which had acquired so much 
importance during the later colonial period. The execu- 
tive and legislature no longer represented two opposite 
political systems; on the contrary both looked to the 
voters as the ultimate authority, and ordinarily both 
the governor and the majority in the assembly were of 
the same political faith. As a result constant friction 
gave way to a more or less friendly cooperation, and 
these two branches of the government were free to devote 
themselves to their proper duties. The strife of the 
colonial period had given to the legislature that highly 
centralized type of organization of which the '* Junto" 
was the characteristic feature. After 1776, when the rep- 
resentatives of the voters were no longer compelled to 
spend the greater part of their time in a controversy 
with the governor, party machinery played a somewhat 
less conspicuous role than before. The primary need 
of all the legislatures was a system that would facilitate 
the transaction of ordinary business, of which, because 
of the war, there was an unusually large amount. Thus 
the colonial ''Junto" had generally dropped out of sight 


along with the conditions responsible for its origin, and 
in its place there appeared a collection of standing 
committees. Because of a combination of circumstances, 
therefore, which found expression partly in the new 
state constitutions based on the theory of the sepa- 
ration of powers, and partly in the committee form 
of legislative organization, the tendency toward parlia- 
mentary government, with one important exception, 
practically disappeared. 

In order to put the system on a surer footing, it would 
have been necessary to change the ''Junto" from an 
unofficial, self-constituted body into a regular standing 
committee, and to confer upon it power to control 
all departments of the government. In North Carolina 
such a committee actually came into existence, not as 
the result of any provision in the Constitution, but rather 
as a product of legislative procedure. This committee 
on public bills, or ''Grand Committee," as it was some- 
times called, was composed of the leading members in 
both chambers of the assembly. It resembled the British 
Cabinet in the extent of its authority over the govern- 
ment in general, and in its influence in the legis- 
lature in particular; it differed from that body chiefly 
in that its members were not made heads of executive 

Although this committee did not become prominent 
until after 1780, it first appeared in North Carolina in 
1776, and at that time it was very much like similar 
committees that were being used in New Hampshire, 
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and 
Georgia. For want of a better name they may be called 
committees on legislation. They were not standing, but 
select, nevertheless they had prescribed duties to per- 
form, so they may be considered parts of the systems. 


In some cases they were joint committees, in others they 
were composed of House members only.'^ 

According to the resolutions adopted at the time of 
their appointment, these committees on legislation were 
expected to draw up and lay before the assembly an 
outline of the work to be done during the session. They 
would make out lists of bills which in their opinion ought 
to become laws, and also call to the attention of the 
legislature other matters concerning which action was 
desirable. The duties of the committees were practi- 
cally the same in all states. In New Hampshire, for 
instance, the committee was ordered ''to examine and 
see what Laws of a public nature would be beneficial to 
be passed." In Massachusetts, it was appointed to 
consider and report on the business which ought to come 
before the General Court, and in Pennsylvania to report 
to the House "what laws it will be most immediately 
necessary should be passed at this session." In fact, 
the order of any one assembly to its legislation committee 
might equally well have applied to all." 

The real nature of the committee is to be seen most 
clearly in the reports which it submitted, and here again 
the close resemblance of the committees in the various 
states stands out plainly. The report would recommend 
certain new laws, perhaps to enforce the payment of 

1 AT'. H. Prov. Papers, H. Journal, VII, 69, June 13, 1765, 1st appoint- 
ment. Ibid., VIII, 81-82, March 7, 1776. Joint after 1776. Mass. H. 
Journal, June 24, 1777, p. 36. Ibid., June 17, 1778, p. 30. Ibid., October 
28, 1780, p. 25. Joint after 1780. Pa. H. Journal, May 22, 1777, p. 138. 
Appointed only once. House only. N, C. St. Eecs., H. Journal, XII, 289, 
November 22, 1777. Joint. S. C. H. Journal, March 29, 1776. House only. 
Ga. Bevol. Eecs., H. Journal, III, 35-36, January 2, 1782. House only. 

In New York, throughout the whole period, 1750-1790, a committee was 
regularly appointed to report to the House temporary laws which needed 
to be renewed, and also to suggest any new laws that might be needed. 
But the committee confined itself to reporting laws which needed renewal, 
and only once did it suggest a new one. N. Y, H. Journal, January 7, 1773, 
p. 7. 

2 Eeferences as in note 1. 


taxes, to regulate the militia, or to reorganize the 
judiciary. Then, in addition, the committee would call 
the attention of the assembly to other necessary work, 
such as issuing commissions to certain judges, drawing 
up general orders for troops, disposing of the gun- 
powder owned by the state, or selling a ship which had 
been employed in naval service.^ In all cases the report 
of the committee became the program for the more 
important work of the session. Because of the fact that 
it proposed the enactment of new laws, it was of a 
different nature from the well-known "steering com- 
mittee," which simply arranges in order work already 
before the House, so that important measures will not 
be neglected.* 

In the colonial period the governor regularly made 
suggestions with reference to new legislation, and this 
custom was continued after the state governments were 
organized. In view of the fact that the governor was 
no longer the representative of an outside power, it 
would naturally be supposed that the committee on legis- 
lation would cooperate with him in this work, or at least 
that his speech or message would be referred to the 
committee. Cooperation may or may not have taken 
place, but in only two states, New Hampshire and North 
Carolina, was the message regularly referred to the 
committee on legislation.^ Elsewhere, with some excep- 

sN. E. Frov. Papers, H. Journal, VIII, 133-134, June 6, 1776. Mass. 
B. Journal, May 30, 1783, p. 23. This is the first report entered in the 
Journal, although the committee had been regularly appointed since 1777. 
S. C. E. Journal, August 1, 1783, p. 11. Ga. Eevol. Bees., Ill, 157-158, 
July 28, 1782; 204-206, January 11, 1783. 

* The ' ' steering committee ' ' is not a modern institution by any means. 
In 1571 a committee was appointed "for appointing such bills for the 
common-weal as shall be first proceeded in, and preferred before the 
residue ..." Commons Journal, I, 86, April 16, 1571; Jameson, 249. 

5 N. E. St. Papers, XX, 413, October 20, 1785. In one case the message 
went to a separate committee, ibid., XXI, 597-598. After 1781, in North 
Carolina, the message was always referred to the committee. N. C. St. 
Bees., XVII, 638-639, January 29, 1781. 


tions in Massachusetts, the governor's commnnications 
were placed in the hands of separate select committees, 
or given over to the committee of the whole house. The 
recommendations of the governor bore directly on the 
work of the committee on legislation, and it seems 
strange that a separate committee should have been 
appointed to report on his message. Evidently the 
different parties concerned were more interested in 
receiving suggestions from all possible sources than in 
a coordination of effort. The legislature looked to the 
governor for advice, but it seems to have felt that he 
might neglect certain important matters. To guard 
against omissions, the members supplemented the 
governor's message with a report of one of their own 

The practically simultaneous appearance of these 
committees indicates common conditions in the legis- 
latures of widely separated states. In New Hampshire 
the committee was in use during the decade before the 
Revolution ; but in the other five states where it appeared 
it came into existence sometime between 1775 and the 
end of the war. Apparently the idea came from the 
colonial ''Junto." For several years the assemblies had 
entrusted the task of arranging their business and 
guiding their activities to a few prominent members. 
That practice became a habit, so that formal provision 
was made for the compilation of programs for the 
sessions. The need for expert guidance of some sort 
was evident after 1775. The legislatures increased 
enormously in size, sometimes to double or treble the 
former membership. Firmly convinced of the value of 
general representation, the people determined to have 
plenty of it. These large legislatures must necessarily 
have included numbers of inexperienced members, who 
would be obliged to follow the lead of their trained 


colleagues. In order to prevent the new members from 
losing themselves in the maze of procedure, the legis- 
latures found it desirable to appoint a committee to 
arrange the business, so that the more important items 
at least would receive attention. 

For some reason the movement which brought these 
committees into existence lost its momentum, and with 
one exception they never advanced beyond the starting 
point. In some states they lived along, playing a small 
part from session to session, while in others they quietly 
dropped out of use. In New Hampshire its most 
flourishing period was from 1765 to 1784; after the 
reorganization of the government in that year, the 
importance of the committee declined, and its reports 
were no longer entered in the Journal. In Massachusetts 
there was little change, one way or the other. In 
Pennsylvania it was appointed only a few times, because 
there the president and council were directed to do such 
work. In South Carolina it disappeared before 1790. 
This development is of some interest, not because of its 
intrinsic importance, which was slight, but because it 
shows by what a narrow margin the other states escaped 
the adoption of a system like the one that developed in 
North Carolina.® 

This tale of aimless drifting and subsequent decline 
does not apply to North Carolina. There, instead of 
lingering on as a semi-useless select committee, the 

6 The Journal does not prove that the legislation committee in North 
Carolina became standing before 1783. In other states, proof that it did 
not become standing is to be found in subsequent appointments of similar 
committees during the same session. In New Hampshire always and often 
in Massachusetts a second committee would be appointed near the end of 
the session, to gather up the loose ends and report on the business yet to 
be done. In South Carolina and Georgia the reports of the committee 
would be referred to other committees for consideration, and the first one 
never reported again. N. H. St. Papers, H. Journal, XX, 371, June 17, 
1785; Mass. H. Journal, October 18, 1783, p. 264; S. C. H. Journal, August 
1, 1783, p. 11; Ga. Bevol. Bees., H. Journal, III, 158-159, July 28, 1782. 


committee on legislation came to be not only the most 
important standing committee in the assembly, but a 
powerful executive body as well, so that its members 
really governed the state. Yet, during the first few years 
of its existence there it differed in no respect from simi- 
lar committees in other states. But in North Carolina 
the committee was kept busy. Not only the governor's 
message, but all state papers were referred to it, so that 
its reports included all the important measures upon 
which action had to be taken. The policy of concen- 
trating the most important work in the hands of 
one committee naturally forced that committee into 

The committee on public bills, as the committee on 
legislation came to be called in North Carolina, first 
appeared in the Provincial Congress of 1776, a nameless, 
select committee, similar in all respects to the com- 
mittees on legislation in the other states.^ When the 
state government was organized in 1776, a similar 
committee, made up of members from both houses, was 
appointed in the new legislature.* In 1781 and there- 
after the governor's message with its accompanying 
public papers was referred to it.^ So far, however, the 
committee was not much, if any, more important than 
the corresponding committee in New Hampshire. But 
by 1783, as repeated references in the Journal show, it 
had taken the long step forward of becoming a standing 
committee. By 1784 it was acquiring a name, another 
step in advance. Its contemporaries never had a dis- 
tinctive title, but this one was coming to be known as 
the committee on public despatches, or on public bills, or 
sometimes as the ''Grand Committee." From 1784 on, 
with the exception of one year, this ' ' Grand Committee, ' ' 

7 N. C. Col. Eecs., Journal, X, 546, April 29, 1776. 

8 N. C. St. Bees., XII, 289, November 22, 1777. 

9 Ibid., XVII, 637, 638, January 28, 29, 1781. 


composed of fifteen or twenty of the leaders in both 
chambers, was the most important factor in the whole 
governmental system of North Carolina. 

An analysis of the resolutions regarding it, of the 
subjects referred to it, and of the work which it did in 
1784 shows the comprehensive field which it covered. 
According to the Journal entry, in addition to making 
out a list of new bills that were needed, the committee 
was ordered *Ho examine the message of His Excellency 
the Governor, together with the papers accompanying 
the same, and report what measures are necessary to be 
taken in consequences of the intelligence they convey. "^° 

The documents referred to the committee covered 
subjects of the most varied character and of the greatest 
importance. The governor's message itself dealt with 
numerous matters which concerned both local and 
foreign interests of the state. In the first place, it 
requested the assembly to take action on the proposal 
to allow Congress to collect an import duty in North 
Carolina ; in addition, the governor urged that attention 
be devoted to such matters as trade, navigatian of the 
rivers, and education; he also submitted for amendment 
a recent law regarding the land office." The papers 
which accompanied the message included a copy of the 
treaty of peace with England, and certain recommen- 
dations of Congress relating to it, a copy of the treaty 
between the United States and Sweden, and the British 
proclamation by which American trade with the West 
Indies was restricted. Not long after, an important 
petition regarding the claim of an Englishman to certain 
land in North Carolina was referred to it.^^ The next 
day, another message of the governor, accompanied by 
more papers from Congress, was given to the committee. 

10 N. C. St. Bees., XIX, 542, H. Journal, May 3, 1784. 

11 Ibid., XIX, 494-499, 501, April 20, 1784. 

12 Ibid., XIX, 502, April 21, 1784. 


These papers had reference to land claimed by for- 
eigners, and to the restoration of property to a loyalist. 
On the same day, the House ordered the committee to 
consider and report for what purposes the fines and 
forfeitures in the Superior Court should be appro- 
priated.^^ The committee therefore was expected to deal 
with questions concerning the whole range of govern- 
mental activity : local affairs, such as finance, commerce, 
navigation, and education; relations with the United 
States on matters of revenue, commerce, and treaties 
with foreign powers; and, finally, direct relations with 
subjects of a foreign nation concerning land claimed in 
the state. In its meetings the members must have dis- 
cussed every vital matter of public interest, and it is 
clear that a report of the committee was a necessary 
preliminary step to any important legislative act. 

The long detailed reports comprised the committee's 
recommendations upon the various topics referred to it, 
and really constituted a definite and explicit statement 
of the domestic and foreign policy of the administration. 
The report of 1784, which may be taken as typical, dealt 
with important questions relating to both local and inter- 
state affairs. As regards the policy of North Carolina 
toward the United States, it recommended among other 
things that North Carolina agree to the suggestion that 
Congress be allowed to collect import duties in the ports 
of the state, that Congress be allowed to regulate foreign 
trade, that provisions be made for straightening out the 
tangled condition of finance, that the western lands be 
ceded to the United States, and that the state repeal 
those laws which would prevent carrying into effect the 
terms of the treaty with England. Concerning state and 
local matters, it recommended: the passing of laws for 
a tariff on negroes and merchandise imported into North 

13 N. C. St. Bees., XIX, 505, 506, AprU 22, 1784. 


Carolina, and for a tax on such luxuries as billiard 
tables, playing cards, and dice ; the passing of new laws 
regarding highways and navigable rivers, taverns, elec- 
tions, and public buildings ; a recommendation was also 
made regarding relations with another state, in connec- 
tion with the southern boundary." 

These reports of the committee furnished the assembly 
with its legislative program for the session, and the 
measures suggested by it were generally adopted. That 
would naturally be the case, because the committee's 
report was nothing but the clear and definite statement 
of the purposes and policies of the assembly leaders. 
They determined what action ought to be taken, and 
then saw to it that these measures were approved by the 
assembly. In 1784, out of proposals for eighteen specific 
bills, fourteen were introduced during that session." 

The subjects referred to the committee, together with 
its reports, show how intimately connected its members 
were with every question of public importance. But it 
was not alone in the fields of general policy and of 
legislations that the committee on public bills was 
practically supreme. It had in addition general over- 
sight of the whole administrative system throughout the 
state. The new constitution had vested considerable 
executive authority in the legislature, and thus indirectly 

14 N. C. St. Bees., XIX, 542-547, May 13, 1784. 

15 It is clear that in 1787 at least the management of the assembly was 
vested in a kind of inner committee, of about twelve men. In that year, the 
finance committee (see chapter IV), which was appointed as usual, was soon 
fused with the committee on public bills. The reason given for this con- 
solidation was that "the whole of the Gentlemen who act on one are mem- 
bers of the others." N. C. St. Bees., XX, 192-193, December 5, 1787. But a 
comparison of the two committees shows that only about half of those on 
the finance committee were members of the other, Hid., pp. 128, 124, 125, 
126, 136, 152, 188; the finance committee was composed of 19 House, and 
9 Senate members, while the public bills committee was composed of 14 
House and 9 Senate. Only 8 House members and 5 Senators were on both 
committees. The statement quoted above indicates that the actual control 
of affairs was in the hands of these few men. 


it conferred more power on this joint committee. In the 
first place the governor was elected by the assembly, so 
he must have been on friendly terms with the influential 
members in that body. Moreover the legislature ap- 
pointed judges, military officers, and also the Attorney- 
General, Treasurer, and Secretary of State." This ap- 
pointing power naturally made all the important officials 
responsible to the assembly, or in other words, to the 
committee on public bills. 

Thus in North Carolina a joint standing committee, 
composed of the most prominent members of the party 
in power, formulated the policy of the government with 
reference to local and foreign affairs, supervised finance, 
decided upon the legislative program, and, in addition, 
through the appointing power, directed the adminis- 
tration. It would be difficult to point out any power 
possessed by the British Cabinet that was not exercised 
by the committee on public bills. The essence of parlia- 
mentary government is the management of both legis- 
lature and administration by a joint standing committee, 
composed of the political leaders of the party in power, 
responsible to the legislature which it guides and 
directs. These conditions were fulfilled in North Caro- 
lina. The chief difference between the systems in 
England and in North Carolina was the fact that in the 
British Cabinet legislative control over the administra- 
tion is direct, because the members of the Cabinet are the 
heads of the executive departments, while in North Caro- 
lina the control of the committee on public bills was 

16 Thorpe, Am. Charters and Consts., V, 2787-2794, especially articles 13, 
14, 15, 22, 24. 

For other reports, see N. C. St. Bees., XX, 491-492, November 10, 1788; 
XXI, 214-215, November 9, 1789; XXI, 889, November 5, 1790. 

For lists of public papers referring to it, see ibid., XX, 128-130, Novem- 
ber 21, 1787; XXI, 16-17, November 7, 1788; XXI, 69, November 19, 1788; 
XXI, 876-879, November 2, 1790; XXI, 911, November 12, 1790. 


indirect, based on the appointing power. The net result, 
however, was the same in both cases. 

The interesting fact about this system in North Caro- 
lina is it was not an importation from abroad, but a 
purely native growth. Indeed it is doubtful if the North 
Carolinians knew what the British form of government 
really was, so they could not have copied if they would. 
The origin of the committee on public bills is to be found, 
not in foreign, but in local, legislative procedure. Before 
1776 the government to all intents and purposes had been 
carried on by the leaders of the popular party, but their 
power was based on personal influence alone. There 
was no regular institution like the Cabinet to give 
permanence to the system. This defect was remedied 
after 1776. In the first place the governor was made 
constitutionally subject to the assembly, and the extra- 
legal ''Junto" was transformed into a formal standing 

If there is anything surprising in this duplication of 
what has always been considered a peculiarly British 
institution, it is that more of the states did not stumble 
on the same thing. Massachusetts and New York with 
their systems of government by "Junto" both came 
dangerously near it before the Revolution, and no less 
than six legislatures had committees like the progenitor 
of the "Grand Committee" in North Carolina. 

The appearance of this type of government, however, 
has left no trace on the growth of American institutions. 
For that very reason it is difficult to refrain from specu- 
lating on what might have happened if the system had 
grown up in Virginia, the state which had so much 
influence in casting the government of the United States 
in its present mould. If James Madison, the political 
scientist of the Federal Convention, had been as familiar 
with this development as he was with the dead systems 


of ancient Greece and Rome, he might have urged a 
similar scheme upon the constitution makers of 1787. 
As it was he had devoted himself so completely to a study 
of the faults and defects in foreign governments that he 
had made no attempt to analyze certain very interesting 
political phenomena just across the border of his own 


While somewhat of a misnomer, the term ''committee 
of the whole house" has been accepted in legislative 
parlance as the approved designation for an informal 
sitting of a lawmaking body. It is really not a committee 
at all, but a meeting of the house itself, conducted under 
rules different from those of the formal sessions. 
Restrictions on the number of speeches a member may 
make are removed, so that debate is free, and the pre- 
siding officer may be any member selected for the 
occasion, except the Speaker. The purpose of such a 
session is to enable the members to thresh out a question 
more completely than could be done under the limitations 
imposed by the regular rules. 

The custom originated in the English Parliament, 
apparently during the reign of James I. Its adoption 
was probably brought about by the necessity for com- 
bining freedom of debate with certain restraints on 
obstreperous members who might misuse too much 
liberty. The committee of the whole is really a com- 
promise between a regular session, and an adjournment 
for purposes of discussion. The latter method could not 
be used to advantage in any large assembly, because 
some restraining influence would be necessary. But the 
primitive form of the committee of the whole was 
probably a short adjournment, during which members 
could move about from one to another, and freely discuss 
the merits of the matter under consideration. In 1750 
the House of Representatives of New Hampshire did 


not have a very complex organization, and sessions of 
the committee of the whole were unknown. But there 
are several instances where the House adjourned for 
a short time, from six minutes to a few hours, to allow 
time for discussion before a vote was taken. With a 
large membership, the only result of such a method 
would have been pandemonium, and the adjournment 
and consequent freedom from rules would have defeated 
its own object. But in New Hampshire the practice was 
common enough so that a motion for such an adjourn- 
ment, far from causing surprise, was taken as a matter 
of course.^ 

The idea of an informal session which should at the 
same time be under some restrictions was brought to 
America from England, and the committee of the whole 
house, like the committee on grievances, was to a greater 
or less extent common to most of the middle and southern 
colonies. In New York and Georgia all bills, with rare 
exceptions, were referred to the committee of the whole 
after the second reading. While by no means so strictly 
followed elsewhere, this practice was well known in 
Virginia, and also in the Carolinas before the war. In 
New England, on the other hand, the committee of the 
whole, properly so-called, was rarely used, and then not 
for purposes of discussing bills. ^ 

^N. H. Col. Bees., VI, 453, January 2, 1756; a motion was made for a 
short adjournment, so "that the members might converse more freely on 
the subject matter of his Excellency 's message of this day ' ' ; the House 
then adjourned for fifteen minutes. 

Other examples: VI, 155, November 7, 1752; pp. 202-203, May 4, 1753; 
p. 269, April 12, 1754. 

Sometimes there would be a short adjournment, in order to allow the 
passage of a bill in one day, and at the same time comply with the rule 
which required at least two adjournments between the three readings of 
a bill. 

2 In the session of the New York Assembly, September-October, 1750, 
all but four bills were referred to the committee of the whole after the 
second reading. The exceptions were local bills, and were committed to 


In respect to bills, procedure did not change very much 
throughout the period. In Pennsylvania, however, 
where it had been almost unknown before the war, the 
practice of referring bills to the committee of the whole 
was made a regular custom. A rule was adopted to the 
effect that all bills of a public nature should be placed 
upon the calendar for a certain day, and unless the 
House explicitly voted otherwise, they should be debated 
in committee of the whole previous to the third reading.^ 

But decrease in this use of the committee of the whole 
was more common than its extension. In both the Caro- 
linas, where bills had frequently been discussed in 
committee before the war, the practice had almost dis- 
appeared by 1790. Why it should have been discon- 
tinued in South Carolina is not clear, for very few 
changes in procedure occurred there. But in North 
Carolina, at least for this period, there was no necessity 
for such a custom. The assembly was guided and con- 
trolled by the leaders, through the committee on public 
bills. They proposed important measures, and new bills 
were framed either under their supervision or by their 
own subcommittees. This type of organization meant, 
of course, a thorough centralization of authority in the 
hands of a few individuals. Important bills, which in 
New York or Pennsylvania would have been referred to 
committee of the whole, came into the assembly of North 
Carolina stamped with the mark of approval by the 
committee on public bills. Under such circumstances 
reference to committee would have been not only un- 
necessary, but somewhat out of harmony with the spirit 

members from the section interested. N. Y. H. Journal, September 24, 
1750, p. 283; October 3, p. 286; October 16, p. 291. 

In Virginia, snch reference was fairly common. In the session which 
lasted from October, 1785, to January, 1786, over twenty bills were thus 
committed. " 

3 Pa. H. Journal, January 21, 1791, p. 106. 


of central control. Then, too, since all bills were framed 
by joint committees, differences of opinion between the 
two chambers could be satisfactorily settled even before 
the first reading. 

Besides discussing bills, the house in committee of the 
whole also debated various financial measures. Before 
1776 in some cases the governor's recommendations 
would be considered in informal session, and new taxes 
might or might not be recommended.* Then, especially 
after the war, questions of taxes and revenue were often 
discussed in committee of the whole, even without any 
urging from the executive. In Virginia, where the com- 
mittee on ways and means did not become firmly estab- 
lished, financial measures were regularly debated in this 
way. In 1777, for instance, a very extensive list of new 
taxes was drawn up in committee of the whole, and then 
laid before the House. The recommendations included 
taxes on real estate, slaves, horses and cattle, dogs, 
plate above a certain value, mortgages, annuities, sala- 
ries, tavern and marriage licenses, and carriages; also 
a poll tax, and an excise on distilled liquors.^ 

4 N. Y. H. Journal, April 25, 1755, p. 440. The governor had urged the 
adoption of measures for defending the colony; after discussion in com- 
mittee of the whole, the House voted to raise £25,000, partly by a tax, and 
partly by the issue of bills of credit. 

Procedure in Virginia and North Carolina was similar. See especially 
the short sessions of 1754 and 1755, passim, Va. H, of B. Journal. N. C. 
Col. Eecs., V, 250, December 23, 1754; 847, May 18, 1757. 

5 Va. H. of D. Journal, December 13, 1777, pp. 77-78. On November 
29, 1781, p. 21, December 5, p. 28, and December 6, pp. 29-30, recom- 
mendations were made regarding paper money, its redemption, and attempts 
to fix its value. November 5, 1787, p. 31, the committee of the whole 
recommended tariff duties on bar iron and castings, coal, rope, cordage, and 
raw hemp. If a select committee was appointed to report new taxes, its 
report would be subject to amendment and revision in committee of the 
whole. Va. H. of D. Journal, December 7, 1781, p. 31; December 10, 
p. 34; December 17, p. 44. 

The same practice was common in New Hampshire after 1776, and in 
Pennsylvania. N. E. St. Papers, VIII, 778-779, March 4, 1778; XX, 419, 


In states where a committee on ways and means was 
in existence, its reports and recommendations regarding 
new taxes and similar matters were subject to amend- 
ment in committee of the whole. When money was 
scarce, demands for new taxes could not be passed with 
impunity, and every measure of that kind was debated 
at length in informal session.® 

In New York, too, the annual appropriation bill was 
drawn up in committee of the whole. Salaries of the 
governor, judges, members of the Council and Assembly, 
and, in fact, of all state officials, were settled in this way. 
In addition, all accounts and claims of individuals, and 
all state expenditures, no matter how minute, were voted 
upon in committee of the whole. After they were all 
satisfactorily determined, a select committee would be 
appointed to frame the appropriation bill in accordance 
with these recommendations.^ 

Sessions of the committee of the whole house were not 

October 25, 1785; 689, September 8, 1786; XXII, 179-180, January 27, 

Pa. H. Journal, March 13, 1759, p. 28; March 15, p. 30; January 24, 
1772, pp. 357-358; February 28, 1777, p. 116. 

6iV. Y. H. Journal, August 25, 1779, p. 7; October 18, p. 74; January 
27, 1780, p. 88, January 28, 1780, p. 91; February 7, 1786, p. 32. Tax bills 
were all discussed in committee of the whole. 

Pa. H. Journal, March 8, 1781, p. 584, Eeport of ways and means com- 
mittee referred to committee of the whole; also March 22, p. 593, and 
March 23, p. 595. When Virginia had a committee on ways and means, the 
same procedure was followed; Va. H. Journal, December 2, 1779, p. 76; 
December 10, 1779, p. 83. 

S. C. H. Journal, February 12, 1784, p. 104; February 17, p. 125; 
February 16, 1785, p. 140. 

Md. H. Journal, November 25, 1785, p. 22, one of the very rare eases 
when the committee of the whole was even mentioned. A motion to go 
into committee of the whole to consider the establishment of permanent 
funds for payment of judges' salaries was not carried. 

7 N. Y. H. Journal, 1750 ; almost daily sessions of committee of the whole 
from September to November 7, pp. 277 to 298, when a partial report was 
presented. Further report presented November 9, pp. 299-303. November 
13, p. 303, the appropriation bill was read the second time, and referred 
to committee of the whole. 


devoted wholly to bills and questions of finance; any 
matter of importance might be discussed in informal 
session. In Massachusetts, for instance, when one of 
the Harvard buildings where the General Court had been 
meeting was burned, the House in committee of the whole 
took up the question of rebuilding it at public expense.* 
In Pennsylvania, the Indian question was discussed in 
committee of the whole, and a recommendation was made 
at one time that settlements on Indian lands be prevented 
by law, unless the land had been purchased.® Sometimes 
charges of maladministration or corruption in public 
offices were investigated by the committee of the whole." 
An amusing case occurred in Georgia, when a petition 
was presented to the House complaining of inhuman 
treatment of prisoners in the jail. The House ''imme- 
diately resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole 
House upon the said Petition," and went in a body to 
the jail to look into the matter.^^ The notion of a legis- 
lative body in committee of the whole on a tour of 
investigation savors somewhat of the humorous. Then, 
during the decade before the war, relations with the other 
colonies and with England sometimes came up for 
discussion in committee of the whole, especially in 
Massachusetts and Virginia.^^ 

Perhaps the most unusual function of the committee 
of the whole house was to be found in Virginia, where 

8 if ass. K. Journal, January 26, 1764, p. 229; the General Court had 
been meeting in Cambridge, because of an epidemic of smallpox in Boston. 

9 Fa. E. Journal, January 7, 1768, p. 10. 

10 Pa. H. Journal, December 6, 1780, p. 546; N. C. St. Bees., XVIII, 

11 Ga. Col. Bees., XIV, 214-215, February 12, 1765. The House numbered 
about fifteen, so it was not much larger than some select committees for 
investigation in other colonies. 

12 Moss. H. Journal, October 19, 1764, p. 97; June 2, 1766, p. 20; June 
2, 1773, pp. 26-27; June 8, 1774, p. 19. 

Va. H. of B. Journal, November 13, 1764, p. 254; April 6, 1768; April 
7, p. 158. 


its recommendations were similar to the reports of the 
committees on legislation, or of the committee on public 
bills. Instead of allowing a select or standing committee 
to make out the program for the session, the House in 
informal session drew up its own. 

In Virginia especially the fiction of the committee of 
the whole house was carried a step further than else- 
where. In that state it had two forms, or perhaps rather 
a kind of dual personality. There was first the simple 
"Committee of the Whole House," to which were re- 
ferred bills after the second reading. Then there was the 
''Committee of the Whole House on the State of the 
Commonwealth," which discussed the governor's letter 
and outlined the legislative business. There was, to be 
sure, no actual difference in form, but there was a clear 
distinction between the two in the minds of the members, 
and in the nature of the work done. If by mistake 
business was referred to the simple committee of the 
whole, when it should have gone to the other, the error 
would be rectified, and an entry would be made in the 
journal to the effect that the transfer had been made.^^ 

Just as in North Carolina the governor's message and 
the public papers accompanying it were referred to the 
committee on public bills, so in Virginia such matters 
went to the committee of the whole house on the state 
of the commonwealth." After due deliberation, the 
''Committee" would lay its recommendations before the 
House. These reports, which, taken together, really 
constituted the legislative program, included such im- 
portant subjects as new taxes, relations with Congress, 
public lands, the judiciary, militia, and commerce. The 

13 Fo. B. of D. Journal, October 11, 1776, p. 8; the "Committee of 
the Whole House ' ' was discharged from proceeding on the letters from 
Congress, and they were referred to the ' ' Committee of the Whole House 
on the State of the Commonwealth." Similar case November 25, 1785, 
p. 57. 

i4 76fd., October 8, 1776, pp. 3, 5-6. 


reports for 1778 suggested new laws regarding pilotage 
rates, the recovery of debts, and military matters, such 
as cavalry service, bounties for enlistments, and the 
employment of free negroes. In addition it urged that 
the governor's steps to procure a loan in France be 
approved, and that a clerkship of foreign correspondence 
be established.^^ Some general reports submitted in 
1784 give a fairly good idea of the scope of this work. 
Bills were recommended for regulating the election, 
payment, and attendance of delegates to Congress, revis- 
ing the recently made judiciary acts, altering Article 
eight of the Articles of Confederation, appointing a 
certain sum for use of Congress, revising the militia 
acts, laying a temporary embargo on the export of 
Indian corn, regulating foreign vessels trading with 
Virginia, enabling officers to distrain property in order 
to collect the army tax, and finally for selling certain 
public lands." 

Another interesting phase of this work of the Vir- 
ginian committee of the whole house on the state of the 
commonwealth was its dabbling in executive business. 
Sometimes it recommended laws, the passing of which 
was really equivalent to the issue of an executive order. 
For instance, at one time it suggested the passing of a 
law to repeal an act by which troops had been located 
at certain places on the frontier.^^ Going still further in 
this direction, actual executive orders were sometimes 
proposed in informal session, and of course confirmed by 
the House. The governor and council, for example, 
might be directed to take measures for disposing of 

15 Va. H. of D. Journal, May 15, 1778, pp. 8-9; May 16, p. 10; May 18, 
p. 11. November 30, 1779, pp. 74-75, reports recommended laws regarding 
the navy of Virginia, foreign consuls, and regulations of sailors belonging 
to foreign vessels. 

i^IMd., May 15, 1784, p. 8; May 19, pp. 11-12; May 20, p. 13; May 21, 
p. 15; May 28, pp. 25-26; June 10, p. 47. 

17 Ibid., October 11, 1776, p. 8. 


certain military supplies. Again, they were authorized 
to give orders for defending the southwestern frontier 
during some trouble with the Cherokees. Once at least 
the organization of certain militia companies was ar- 
ranged, and the officers were named by the House. 
Finally orders were given, to be carried out by the com- 
missioners of the navy, or by the governor and council, 
regarding the movement and work of vessels in the navy 
of Virginia/^ These were matters which, strictly speak- 
ing, belonged to the executive department, but for several 
years after the war the line of demarcation between the 
functions of executive and legislature were not very 
clearly drawn. 

In New Hampshire work of a similar character was 
done by a joint committee of the whole. The legislative 
program, strictly so-called, was drawn up by the com- 
mittee on legislation, but other measures upon which 
action was needed were laid before the assembly in 
reports of this joint informal session. For instance, 
state officials would be appointed, and the advisability 
of creating commissioners for certain purposes would be 
suggested, such as buying clothing for troops, or receiv- 
ing the money lent to the Continental Loan Office. 
Moreover, if the report of the committee on legislation 
omitted important measures, this joint committee of 
the whole would propose new laws.^** 

18 Fa. E. of D. Journal, 1776, October 19, p. 19; October 25, p. 27; 
October 28, p. 31 ; October 30, p. 33. 

19 N. E. St. Papers, VIII, 745-746, December 24, 1777. In a series of 
joint sessions in 1785, the following recommendations were submitted to 
the House: that the Navigation Act should not be suspended; that the 
President be authorized to write to the other states concerning regulation 
of commerce; and that committees be appointed to "close" the public 
accounts of the state, to consider a revision of the proscription laws, and 
to consider a plan for establishing a ' ' post rider. ' ' 

N. E. St. Papers, XX, 419, October 24, 1785; October 25, p. 419; October 
26, p. 420; November 4, p. 438. For similar action, see February, 1786, pp. 
490, 495, 497. 


In New York, procedure in this respect resembled that 
in Virginia. The committee of the whole house, after 
discussing the governor's speech or message, would 
make suggestions regarding the action to be taken upon 
his recommendations. "° 

This brief survey of the committee of the whole 
emphasizes certain differences in the systems of govern- 
ment in North Carolina and in Virginia. There is 
nothing particularly strange or out of the ordinary in 
the practice of debating bills and financial measures in 
committee of the whole, but the custom of making out 
the legislative program in committee, as was done in 
Virginia, was unusual. At first sight it might appear 
to be a very democratic method; the representatives of 
the people in an informal way talked over the needs of 
the state, and then proceeded to legislate accordingly. 
But the gathering of a hundred and fifty members for 
the purpose of deciding upon such needs could accom- 
plish little, because the very numbers would cause 
confusion. Some guidance would be necessary, and 
either a few clever politicians must have agreed to direct 
the members in such deliberations, thereby turning the 
whole thing into a machine-controlled assemblage, or 
the governor's "letter" would be made the basis of 
the recommendations. Either horn of the dilemma may 

20 N. Y. H. Journal, Au^ist 25, 1779, p. 7. Committee of the whole 
recommended bills: (1) to confiscate royalists' estates; (2) to supply the 
troops with clothing; (3) to raise money for state debts. 

September 7, 1780, pp. 6-7. Committee of the whole recommended: 
(1) election of delegates to Congress; (2) appointment of a select com- 
mittee to report on methods for defending the frontier; (3) appointment 
of a committee to procure supplies for the army; (4) appointment of a 
committee to complete the enrollment of the continental regiments. Further 
recommendations on September 13, pp. 19-20. 

In North Carolina, in 1786, the legislative program was made up in 
joint committee of the whole; after that, however, the committee on public 
bills did the work, as usual. N. C. St. Bees., XVIII, 255, November 27, 
1786; November 28, pp. 260, 261. 


have been taken. In either case, procedure differed 
radically from that in North Carolina, where the legis- 
lative policy was framed by the standing committee on 
public bills, a compact, efficient little group of assembly 
leaders, sufficiently small to devise a consistent policy, 
and influential enough to put it through. The recom- 
mendations of the committee of the whole house on the 
state of the commonwealth resembled those of the com- 
mittee on public bills in character, but they were not so 
numerous. Then, too, they were never laid before the 
House in one solid block early in the session, to serve 
as a constant guide to the assembly in its work, but were 
brought forward in groups of three or four. The indi- 
cations of smooth organization so conspicuous in North 
Carolina were wanting in Virginia. If the House of 
Delegates was controlled by a machine, the leaders were 
not such able parliamentarians as were the members of 
the public bills committee in North Carolina. Evidence 
on this point is wanting, but from the very nature of 
the case it seems likely that the governor had more or 
less influence in managing the legislature. The proba- 
bility is slight that the committee of the whole house, 
unguided and undirected, could arrive at any decision 
regarding legislative policy on important measures. 
Moreover, had such sessions been wholly controlled by 
the assembly leaders, it is probable that the custom would 
have ultimately found expression in the appointment of 
a committee on legislation. On the other hand, a good 
politician like Patrick Henry could probably guide the 
House through personal influence alone, so that the 
recommendations of the informal session would reflect 
his will. In North Carolina, the governor could have had 
no great influence in shaping legislation, because he was 
only one of the political leaders, elected by the same men 
who appointed the committee on public bills. The system 


in Virginia enabled an executive with a strong person- 
ality to control legislation, while that in North Carolina 
absolutely precluded such a possibility. It is clear, then, 
that there was a marked difference in the types of 
government in the two states. That in North Carolina 
revealed some of the characteristics of the parliamentary 
system, while that in Virginia foreshadowed the Con- 
gressional form, which the Federal Convention, largely 
influenced by the statesmen of Virginia, drew up for the 
United States. 


Because of the limitations imposed by the nature of 
the material, an account of committee procedure in the 
colonial period must deal for the most part with such 
strictly formal details as the method of appointment, 
time and place of meeting, and the external features 
of committee organization. Information about these 
matters can be gleaned from the journals, but that 
source never gives even a glimpse of committees at work. 
There are apparently no records available which outline 
the debates and discussions, and describe proceedings in 
the committee rooms. The records are bare enough 
when the subject is taken up from the viewpoint of 
institutional development, but they are extremely dis- 
appointing when one looks for the human element in the 
institution. Legislators of the eighteenth century were 
by no means lacking in an understanding of devious 
political methods, and it is probable that in their com- 
mittee meetings they worked out schemes which would 
make interesting reading to-day. Then, if in moments 
of excitement members sometimes forgot their sense of 
propriety, as they occasionally did even in formal 
session,^ they very likely displayed considerable heat in 
the committee rooms. The colonial governors deserve 

"i^ Mass. H. Journal, February 18, 1782, p. 581. "Mr. Otis arose and 
claimed the protection of the House, as the member from Oakham had 
broke the Orders of the House by calling him a ScoundreU when in Order 
on his seat. For which indecency the Member from Oakham is ordered 
to ask pardon of the House, and to ask pardon of Mr. Otis. Which he did 
accordingly. ' ' 


thanks for telling what tales they did about the practices 
of certain leaders in the assemblies, but even they had 
little opportunity to find out what went on at the private 
conferences of these shining lights in the lower house. 
It takes the sharp rivalry of active politics to bring out 
the truth regarding methods employed; when a man is 
thoroughly exasperated at the work of his opponents, 
he will tell all he knows about their operations. Conse- 
quently there are more stories of clever manipulation 
before 1776 than after, because between the outbreak 
of war and the adoption of the Federal Constitution 
there was no party in opposition. There were no 
competitors to report to the public facts about legislative 
schemes, and active participants in shady transactions 
would not be likely to leave evidence that might be used 
against them. Consequently, any attempt to discuss 
committee procedure must be analytical and dry rather 
than descriptive and interesting. 

In forming an estimate of the importance of com- 
mittees in legislative work, the method of appointment 
is a factor worthy of consideration. Up to a short time 
ago all committees in the national House were appointed 
by the Speaker, that is, by the political chief of the party 
in power. The membership was arranged with an eye 
to party interests, and control over such appointments 
was looked upon as a legitimate means of building up a 
firm party organization in the House. Even now, when 
the Speaker's power in this respect is somewhat less 
autocratic than it was, the majority party still has full 
control of committee membership, and the method of 
appointment makes the standing committee system a 
powerful engine for party purposes. 

In the British Parliament of the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries, the manner of appointment was so 
different that partisan control of committees would have 


been difficult if not impossible. Instead of being chosen 
by the Speaker, they were named in a haphazard way by 
the members of the House. After it had been voted to 
refer a bill to a committee, the Speaker, in the quaint 
words of D 'Ewes, ' ' did put the House in mind, to name 
committees. And thereupon every one of the House that 
listed, did name such other Members of the same, to be of 
the Committee, as they thought fit; and the clerk either 
did, or ought to have written down as many of them, as 
he conveniently could; and when a convenient number 
of the Committees named, were set down by the Clerk, 
then did the Speaker move the House to name the time 
and place, when and where they should meet."^ Such a 
crude method indicates that party leaders could have 
cared little about the personnel of the committees. The 
main thing was to get some one to do the work, and 
apparently in those days one member answered the 
purpose as well as another. 

In the assemblies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, 
New Jersey, and probably North Carolina, much the 
same method was used, although there was an attempt 
at orderliness which was wanting in the House of 
Commons. According to the rules, "No member shall 
nominate more than one person for one committee, pro- 
vided the person by him first nominated be chosen. ' " 

2 D 'Ewes, 44, February 3, 1559 ; Jameson, 252. This same method was 
in use in 1603; a member would move that a committee be appointed, "and 
to that Purpose were called, and set down by name . . . ," etc. Commons 
Journal, I, 151, March 23, 1603. 

3N. H. St. Papers, VIII, 740, December 20, 1777, Eule 15. Eepeated 
June 8, 1784, N. H. St. Papers, XX, 72. Similar rules, Mass. Prov. Cong. 
Journal, p. 164, April 29, 1775; Mass. H. Journal, May 30, 1777, p. 8; N. J. 
H. Journal, October 24, 1792, p. 8. 

In Massachusetts they were occasionally appointed by ballot. K. 
Journal, November 22, 1780, p. 126; May 29, 1789, p. 21. 

In North Carolina there is no direct statement regarding the method 
of appointment during this period, but apparently committees were nomi- 
nated by the House. The following statement hints at such a method: 
Eesolved, that "before the House proceed to the choice of a Committee 


The modem method of appointment by the Speaker 
prevailed in several colonies. In Pennsylvania and 
Maryland, both methods were used, although the choice 
of committees by the House took place only in cases of 
special importance.* 

In Virginia and Georgia committees were regularly 
appointed by the Speaker. Evidence on this point is 
clear enough in the case of the latter assembly. Accord- 
ing to rule, it was ordered: ''That the Speaker appoint 
the Committees with the approbation of the House, and 
if any Dispute arise the Committees shall be ballotted 
for by the House the Member that made the Motion or 
proposed and the Member that seconded it being always 
two of that Committee."^ Apparently the Speaker 
looked upon the duty of appointing committees as his 
special privilege, and objected to any interference with 
that right. During the quarrel between Speaker and 
House in 1756 the Speaker complained that "They 
appointed Several Committees I refused to chuse the 
Members they chuse them themselves. ' '" 

they determine of what number the Committee shall consist." N. C. St. 
Sees., XVII, 269, November 20, 1785. 

*Pa. H. Journal, October 16, 1767, pp. 3-4, Eule 13. "That the Speaker 
have Power to Nominate Persons for Committees, and that none who are 
nominated refuse the Service; not that any of the Members shall be hereby 
debarred of their Privilege of nominating Persons, if they think fit, or 
rejecting such as are nominated by the Speaker; in which Case the Opinion 
of the House shall govern. ' ' 

It seems likely that appointment by the Speaker was comparatively new, 
entries in the Journal for October 17, 1764, p. 374, and October 16, 1765, 
p. 433, state that: "The House proceeded to the Nomination of their 
Committees for the ensuing year. ..." 

After the war, appointment by the Speaker pretty generally superseded 
the other method. Two instances were found when the Speaker asked the 
House to name the committees, because of the importance of the measures 
involved, but he was directed to appoint them. Pa. H. Journal, September 
20, 1787, p. 72; September 12, 1788, p. 68. 

For Maryland, Md. H. Journal, November 13, 14, 1782, pp. 5-6; 
November 15, 1784, p. 3, Rule 32. 

5 Ga. Col. Bees., XIII, 424, October 14, 1760, Rule 17. 

6 IMd., XIII, 101, February 16, 1756. 


In the case of Virginia evidence is not so clear, but 
what little there is practically proves that committees 
were appointed by the Speaker.^ In the first place, 
Edmund Randolph, in discussing the famous Speaker 
Robinson, wrote that "to committees he nominated the 
members best qualified."* Again, in 1789, an order 
passed the House to the effect that every session, the 
Speaker should appoint a committee to inspect the clerk's 
office. When the committee was appointed the following 
session, the record in the Journal is worded in exactly 
the same way as are the entries regarding all committee 
appointments: "Ordered, that a committee be ap- 
pointed," and, ''a committee was appointed of . . ."so 
and so,^ Thus, although the record itself gives no hint 
that the Speaker named the committee, the preceding 
order makes it probable that he did so. Moreover, when 
there was a departure from the regular method, the 
entry in the minutes calls special attention to that fact.^° 

Although the method of appointment by the Speaker 
lends itself more readily to the partisan control of 
committees, sometimes, even when chosen by the House, 
they were used by the leaders for party interests. 
Evidence already presented shows how well they were 
made to serve the purposes of the radicals in both Massa- 
chusetts and North Carolina before the war." After 
1776 in North Carolina, even during the period when 
there was really no organized party in opposition, the 

7 Miller, Legisl. of the Prov. of Va., 109, states that committees were 
appointed by the House. The little evidence available points the other way. 

8 Va. H. of B. Journal, 1766-1769, introduction, p. xiii, quoting Ran- 
dolph's MSS., "Hist, of Va.," pp. 110-111. 

9 Va. H. of D. Journal, November 5, 1789, p. 41 ; October 19, 1790, 
pp. 4-5. 

10 The committee on ways and means, 1779 and 1780, was elected by 
ballot. Va. H. of D. Journal, November 9, 10, 1779, pp. 47, 52; May 18, 
19, 1780, pp. 12, 14. 

11 Chapters II and III. 


centralized organization of the House, typified in the 
committee on public bills, was made more complete by 
appointing members of that committee to others, both 
standing and select. In 1784, Person, one of the active 
leaders, was on ten important committees, and two of 
his colleagues, Hawkins and Hooper, were on nine. The 
standing committees on public bills and on privileges 
and elections, and select committees to arrange for the 
settlement of accounts, to examine the accounts of the 
commissioners of confiscated estates, to make up the 
budget, to report what taxes should be levied, and to 
decide upon the method of raising them, were all con- 
trolled by about a dozen men." 

After the committee was appointed, some sort of 
organization was necessary. No matter how small it 
was, every committee had to have a chairman. In 
Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina, the pre- 
siding officer was chosen by the committee itself, while 
in Virginia he was apparently named by the Speaker." 
In the case of those standing committees of Virginia and 
North Carolina which were kept busy throughout the 
session, clerks were also appointed. These were not 
members of the House, but regular officials, selected by 
the committee itself in North Carolina, and elected by 

12 In the first session of the Federal House of Eepresentatives, the rule 
regarding committee appointment stated that the Speaker should appoint 
committees, unless the House decided that they should consist of more than 
three members, in which case they were to be chosen by ballot. V. S. H. 
Journal, April 7, 1789, p. 9. Later this was changed, and the Speaker was 
given authority to appoint all conmiittees, unless the House specially 
directed otherwise; in the latter case they were to be chosen by ballot, 
ibid., January 13, 1790, p. 140. This arrangement resembled the method 
in Pennsylvania, and was probably introduced through the influence of 
Speaker Muhlenberg. 

13 Po. H. Journal, December 31, 1790, pp. 56-58, rule 16. Md. E. 
Journal, November 29, 1765, p. 43. N. C. Col. Bees., Y, 793, 965; X, 594. 
In other states evidence is wanting. 


ballot in Virginia." In Maryland, a few committee 
clerks were appointed at the beginning of each session, 
and then assigned to any committee in need of their 

In the colonial period this simple form of organiza- 
tion was sufficient, but in North Carolina and Virginia 
after 1776 greater burdens necessitated more attention 
to details. In order to insure increased efficiency in 
dealing with the business referred to it, the committee 
on finance in North Carolina divided itself into sub- 
committees, to each of which was given a definite division 
of the work. One would make up the budget, another 
would look into the expenditures of the previous year, 
and still another would be given charge of the tobacco 
speculation in which the state engaged. In 1789 the 
chairmen of these subdivisions reported directly to the 
House, instead of to the main committee.^^ In 1790 the 
committee on public bills divided into subcommittees, 
for the purpose of drawing up the bills recommended 
in its report.^^ 

Apparently some such method was adopted in Virginia 
after 1785, although the Journal does not expressly 
record the fact. This was made necessary, not only by 
the amount of work, but also by the size of the com- 
mittees. With a membership of about a hundred, the 

i*2\r. C. Col. Bees., IV, 823, June 19, 1746; VIII, 141, October 30, 1769. 
In Virginia, before the Revolution, each of the six regular standing com- 
mittees had its own clerk. After the war, the committees were grouped 
in pairs, one with a large amount of work, and one with little, and a clerk 
was appointed for each pair. Va. H. of B. Journal, February 28, 1752, 
pp. 7-8; March 6, 1773, pp. 10-11. H. of D. Journal, December 18, 1776, 
p. 103; November 16, 1779, p. 58. 

15 Md. H. Journal, November 7, 1765, p. 19; May 6, 1783, p. 2; Novem- 
ber 11, 1783, p. 2. 

16 N. C. St. Bees., XVIII, 282-283, December 6, 1786 ; six subcommittees. 
XXI, 634, November 30, 1789, nine subcommittees. These were all joint, 
because the main committee was joint. 

17 Ibid., XXI, 889, November 5, 1790. 


committee on propositions and grievances was clearly 
obliged to distribute the business referred to it in such 
a way that the chairman and a few faithful ones would 
not do all the work. The fact that in 1788 reports from 
this committee were presented by seven different men 
shows that the North Carolina scheme of subcommittees 
had been adopted in Virginia.'^ This method was 
peculiar to North Carolina and Virginia; elsewhere the 
standing committees were not large enough for such 

In this period, when so much of the work consigned 
to committees had to do with investigating the truth of 
facts alleged in petitions, authority to force the attend- 
ance of witnesses was practically a necessity. Such 
power was regularly given to the standing committees 
of New York, Maryland after 1783, and Virginia, and 
in other states it was granted whenever circumstances 
made it desirable.^'' 

Once given, this authority was supported by the full 
power of the House, and refusal to obey the summons 
of a committee was a serious offense. Occasionally, 
apparently in ignorance of the law, a man ordered to 
appear at a certain time would calmly send word that 
he was unable to attend. In New York, Pennsylvania, 
and Virginia, when this happened, the offender was 

18 Va. E. of D. Journal, October-December, 1788. Up to November 6, 
W. Cabell, the regular chairman, reported each time; November 6, pp. 27- 
28, Bullit reported; November 10, p. 33, Bland; November 15, p. 45, both 
Cabell and Bullit; November 24, 27, 28, Carrington, New, and Callis; 
December 17, Wilkinson. In the same session reports from the committee 
on claims were presented by five different men. 

19 A^. Y. E. Journal, August 25, 1779, p. 6. Md. E. Journal, November 
11, 1783, p. 2. Va. E. of B. Journal, February 28, 1752, pp. 7-8. In 1777, 
the power was granted to any committee appointed for purpose of gathering 
evidence, ibid., June 7, 1777, p. 67. N. C. Col. Bees., VII, 352, November 
8, 1766. N. C. St. Bees., XVIII, 273, December 4, 1786. S. C. E. Joiirnal, 
January 23, 1787, pp. 11-12; January 27, p. 25. Ga. Bevol. Bees., Ill, 40, 
January 3, 1782. 


declared guilty of contempt of the authority of the 
House, and placed under arrest.^" 

After the summons had been issued, the witness was 
under the protection of the House. In New York, anyone 
who prosecuted a person for statements made in testify- 
ing before a committee was declared guilty of breach 
of privilege.-^ In both Virginia and Georgia committee 
witnesses, like members of the assembly, were privileged 
from arrest during their attendance, and also during the 
journey to and from the place where the hearing was 
held. Finally, in Virginia, persons who attempted to 
tamper with witnesses, or prevent them from appearing 
or giving evidence, were considered guilty of high crimes 
and misdemeanors." 

The marked variations in the number and importance 
of standing committees in the early states affords an 
excellent standard for determining the stage of develop- 
ment which they had reached. Another side light on this 
same thing is to be found in the relatively crude arrange- 
ments made for committee meetings. When the state 
houses were built, standing committees had not been of 
sufficient importance to attract attention to their needs, 
consequently in only rare cases had rooms been provided 
in which they could meet. Not only were the comfortable, 
almost luxuriously furnished, committee quarters of the 
present day unknown, but in many states committees 
were actually forced to meet in private houses. In New 
York, New Jersey, Virginia, and North Carolina the 
members of committees assembled for work in some such 
place as ''the House of George Burns," ''the House of 

20 N. Y. H. Journal, May 8, 1769, p. 53. Pa. H. Journal, March 3, 1759, 
p. 24. Va. H. of B. Journal, March 26, 1767, p. 97; March 28, 30, pp. 100, 

21 N. Y. E. Journal, December 28, 1768, p. 66. 

22 Va. E. of B. Journal, December 8, 1769, p. 324. Ga. Col. Bees., XIV, 
152-153, November 27, 1764. 


the Widow Stillwell," or perhaps at Mr. Whitehead's 
or Jacob Hyer's.^^ To be sure other places were some- 
times used, but they all show that the standing committee 
was not nearly as important as it is at the present time. 
In Massachusetts they met in the "upper rooms" of the 
old statehouse, probably on the third floor, which is now 
so insecure that only a few visitors are permitted to go 
up there at one time, or in the ''Chambers of the 
Porches," in the same building.-* In the other states 
meeting places were also provided, somewhat more 
suitable than private houses, for the discussion of 
important business. In New Jersey, they sometimes 
met in ''the old Meeting House, "^° and in New York in 
the Council chamber, or in the Speaker's room.^^ In 
Pennsylvania there was a "Committee Room at the East 
End of the State-House,"" and by 1779 "Committee 
Rooms" were provided in Virginia. ^^ 

The usual time for committee meetings was in the 
evening, after the daily session.-^ In Virginia they also 
met in the morning, before the House assembled, and 
sometimes during the hour supposed to be set apart for 
morning prayer.^" In Massachusetts, however, they met 
during the regular sessions of the assembly, provided, 
of course, that there was a quorum without them. When 

23 2V. Y. H. Journal, June 5, 1753, p. 339; June 29, p. 348. N. J. H. 
Journal, September 7, 1776, p. 66; September 12, p. 10; March 1, 1777, 
p. 90. 

Bruce, Inst. Hist, of Va., II, 479 ; Rowland, Life of George Mason, I, 335. 
N. C. Col Eecs., V, 795; VIII, 141. 

2iMass. H. Journal, July 31, 1775, p. 27; May 28, 1779, p. 10. 

25 A'. J. H. Journal, November 23, 1776, p. 47. 

26 iV. Y. H. Journal, June 4, 1751, p. 309; November 20, p. 326. 

27 Pa. H. Journal, October 17, 1761, p. 189. 

28 Va. H. of D. Journal, October 20, 1779, p. 16. 

29 Rowland, George Mason, I, 335, Mason to Lee. N. C. Col. Eecs., V, 
975; VIII, 141. S. C. H. Journal, March 3, 1787, p. 215. 

30 Va. H. of B. Journal, December 8, 1769, p. 324. 


measures of special importance were under consideration, 
the committees would be called in.^^ 

The active leaders must have found it very burden- 
some to spend all day in regular session and then devote 
half the night to committee work. In an exceptionally 
busy season they not only had little time for pleasure, 
but were even deprived of their sleep. A member of the 
Provincial Congress of North Carolina found that the 
business of getting the new government on its feet was 
no easy task. "In my time," he wrote, '*I have been 
used to business, both public and private, but never yet 
experienced one-fourth part of what I am now neces- 
sarily obliged to undertake — we have no rest, either 
night or day. The first thing done in the morning is to 
prepare every matter necessary for the day — after 
breakfast, to Congress — there, generally, from 9 until 
3 o'clock — no sitting a minute after dinner, but to 
different committees ; perhaps one person will be obliged 
to attend four of them between 4 o 'clock and 9 at night — 
then to supper, and this generally brings us to 12 at 
night. This has been the life I have led since my arrival 
here — in short I never was so hurried. "^^ 

To be sure, that was an exceptionally busy period, and 
it is doubtful if representatives were ordinarily so 
active. The leaders may have worked hard and long, 
but apparently they were the only ones who took their 
committee duties very seriously. All the way from 
Pennsylvania to Georgia there was the same tale of 

31 Mass. E. Journal, June 8, 1776, p. 57, the House ordered "That all 
the Committees of the House be called in." Ibid., January 27, 1779, p. 114. 

At one time, when the Senate proposed to adjourn, because of small 
attendance, the House reported that it was unnecessary, because a quorum 
was present, and there were enough besides to ' ' set ' ' on all the important 
committees. September 18, 1781, p. 212. Again, when the House wished 
the joint committees to sit immediately, the Senate reported that matters 
of importance were being discussed, so that members could not be spared 
to sit on committees. January 30, 1782, pp. 499-500. 

32 N. C. Col. Bees., X, 1033, appendix, Jones to Iredell, April 28, 1776. 


failure to attend meetings. Usually members dodged 
their responsibilities in this respect, and it took much 
prodding on the part of the chairman to get them to do 
anything. In the Pennsylvania House a member once 
remarked that "Every Gentleman must be sensible of 
the difficulty with which Committees are collected . . .;" 
and again, ''business consigned to a large Committee 
was done by a few of its members or not at all . . .'"^ 
In regard to a certain petition which had been referred 
by the Virginia House to a select committee, George 
Mason wrote that the members seemed inclined to favor 
it, ''if this can properly be said of men who are too 
indolent to attend to anything. The Committee have 
met, or rather failed to meet, at my lodgings every 
morning and evening for this fortnight.'"* In North 
Carolina, an irate legislator once complained that "The 
want of punctuality among members in attending com- 
mittees has called for the exercise of more philosophy 
than I possess.'"' In Georgia carelessness in this 
respect became so general that the House was forced to 
impose a fine of six pence on members who did not come 
to a committee meeting within fifteen minutes of the 
time fixed by the chairmen; if they did not come at all, 
they were fined two shillings.^® 

This general lack of interest in committee meetings 
may have been only another manifestation of the ten- 
dency of the legislatures in the middle and southern 
states to imitate procedure in the House of Commons, 
for complaint was made about the same difficulty there 
in 1604." 

33 Pa. Debates, October 26, 1787, p. 8, 

3* Rowland, George Mason, I, 335, Mason to Lee. 

35 iV. C. St. Eecs., XVI, 613, May 1, 1782. 

36 Ga. Col. Bees., XIII, 590, November 12, 1761; 594, November 13. 

37 ComwoHs Journal, I, 169, April 12, 1604. "Upon a Motion made 
touching the slow Proceeding and Dispatch of such Bills and Business, 
as were depending in the House, which grew (as was said) by the Non- 


It is clear that members did not look upon their com- 
mittee duties as a pleasure, and such complaints lead to 
the suspicion that our forefathers were not filled with 
that frantic desire to play their parts in legislative 
matters which has sometimes been attributed to them. 

In conclusion, so far as the state legislatures are 
concerned, it can be said that by 1790 the standing 
committees had become the most conspicuous feature of 
the organization of nearly all the American assemblies. 
Before very many years the same system had been 
adopted by the national House of Representatives. 
Thus at the present time the type of organization in the 
British House of Commons is fundamentally unlike that 
in the American House of Representatives. In England 
the popular branch of the legislature is built up around 
the Cabinet, a group of party leaders organized as an 
administrative body. In the United States, on the other 
hand, where the legislators take no part in actual admin- 
istration, the lower house is split into numerous standing 
committees. But in the beginning the House of Commons 
was in principle not so very different from the average 
colonial assembly, and in both places the conception of 
what a legislature ought to be was practically the same. 
A study of committee history during this period brings 
out the fact that by 1760 the American legislature had 
reached a point where slightly different conditions 
might very easily have forced it into a line of develop- 
ment parallel to that taken by the popular house of 

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the 
House of Commons had a system of committees very 
much like those in use later in some of the American 

attendance of a sufficient Number at Committees; it was Ordered, That if 
Eight of any Committee do assemble, they might proceed to a Kesolution 
in any Business of the House. ' ' 


colonies. But just at the time when this form of organi- 
zation was developing, Parliament began its long and 
bitter quarrel with the Stuart kings. If this had been 
merely a struggle between two political parties, it would 
not necessarily have affected institutional development. 
But it was a conflict between two opposing theories of 
government, or two sources of authority, so that there 
was at stake not the mere question of party control, but 
the rights and privileges of the House of Commons. 
Henceforth, for three-quarters of a century, the chief 
business of Parliament was not to legislate, but to protect 
its rights against the aggressive supporters of the 
prerogative. Such a situation called for a firmly knit, 
well-organized body, the guidance of which could be 
entrusted to a few active leaders. Consequently, because 
they were designed for purposes of legislation rather 
than for a defensive campaign, the committees which 
had grown up gave way to a system of control by party 
leaders. By the time of the flight of James II, Parlia- 
ment had become accustomed to that kind of organiza- 
tion, and the long uninterrupted Whig rule of the first 
half of the eighteenth century served to make it perma- 
nent. Thus when the House of Commons finally found 
itself safe from all royal attacks upon its privileges, the 
Cabinet had superseded the system of standing com- 
mittees as the chief factor in lawmaking machinery. 

In the American colonies, standing committees were 
introduced just as they had been in the House of 
Commons. Then, in the same way, there developed the 
friction between prerogative and people which had 
resulted in civil war in England. But in the colonies 
the struggle did not last nearly as long as it had in the 
mother country. To be sure some of the legislatures pro- 
duced the ''Junto," a primitive kind of central organ- 
ization, and the governors were generally engaged in 


altercations with the assembly. But the lower house 
easily made good its right to a predominant place in 
colonial government, and the royal executive was some- 
what contemptuously thrust aside. Trouble did not 
become acute until the English officials tried to regain 
some of the lost ground, and then royal authority was 
thrown off once for all. Moreover, for the first few years 
after the war party rivalry almost disappeared in the 
new states, so that there was no real necessity for strong 
centralization in the lower house. Instead of being put 
into a state to resist a long siege, the assemblies were 
therefore organized primarily for purposes of legis- 
lation, and the standing committee became the most 
important feature of their mechanism. The tendency 
toward a parliamentary form of government, the germ 
of which existed in the ''Junto," thereupon came to an 

The only exception to this general trend was in North 
Carolina, where the legislature was built up around the 
central committee on public bills. Other standing com- 
mittees were used there, but the prominence of that one 
made the assembly resemble the English Parliament 
more closely than the other American legislatures. In 
that one state the quarrels between governor and 
assembly had been exceedingly bitter, and consequently 
there was more need for a closely organized lower house. 
The government was always in trouble, and for one 
period of seven years several counties refused not only 
to send representatives to the legislature, but also to 
pay taxes.^^ Because of this continual turmoil. North 
Carolina became accustomed to a centralized assembly, 
and that form of organization was retained, as it had 

38 N. C. Col. Eecs., IV, preface, p. xix. Some of the counties objected 
to the royal order regulating the number of representatives they might 
send, so from 1747 to 1754 they withdrew from participation in the 
government; during these years there was no regular assembly. 


been in England, after the conditions which made it 
necessary had disappeared. 

The trend of development in Parliament, and in the 
colonial and state legislatures during this period, indi- 
cates clearly that the steady normal growth of the 
average Anglo-Saxon assembly would result in a system 
of standing committees. Such a conclusion is suggested 
by procedure in Parliament in the early part of the 
seventeenth century, and is confirmed by the history of 
committee activity in America, especially after 1776. 
In no colony save one was the constitutional strife severe 
enough to force the assemblies into a posture of defense, 
and to hold them there until that form of organization 
became permanent. Admirably as it has worked during 
the long period of peace which has followed the consti- 
tutional struggle, the custom of entrusting the manage- 
ment of Parliament to the party leaders was called into 
being and given permanence by the severity of that 
conflict. Had the same difficulties arisen in America 
after the Revolution as they did in England after the 
Great Rebellion, the legislatures would have been com- 
pelled to adopt a similar system of central control. 


The period of the Revolution and Confederation was 
primarily one of governmental reorganization, during 
which colonies were being transformed into states, and 
charters into constitutions. In this remodeling the 
Americans had the advantage of years of practical 
training back of them, so that not very much experi- 
mentation was necessary. For that reason serious 
blunders were avoided, and when the constitutions were 
finally drawn they proved to be sensible, workable 
instruments, providing for governmental structures very 
similar to those of the past. In like manner the members 
of the Federal Convention showed a tendency to follow 
well-known precedents as closely as possible. To be sure 
their task was more complicated than that of any state 
convention, because there had been so little experience 
with federal government in America. But even they 
were called upon, not to invent new principles, but 
rather to adapt and apply familiar ones. This was 
particularly true in the case of the legislature. It was 
taken for granted that the federal assembly would not 
differ in its main outlines from any one of those of the 

There were, however, two problems to be solved, both 
puzzling, perhaps even more troublesome than would 
have been the working out of some wholly new idea. 
In the first place, it was necessary to adjust the theory 
of representation to the requirements of a federal 
government. Some arrangement was needed which 


would provide for the interests, and secure the partici- 
pation, of the voters on the one hand and of the several 
states on the other. Then the fields in which the new 
Congress must and might operate, as well as those from 
which it was wholly debarred, had to be surveyed and 
bounded with no little care. These were vexing ques- 
tions, and the handling of them demanded both finesse 
and wisdom. To many Americans who had fought to 
escape the meddling of one central government the 
establishment of another was nothing less than a gra- 
tuitous insult, and their susceptibilities could not be 
altogether ignored. 

Although all these constitutions, both state and 
national, were based largely upon colonial and contem- 
porary precedents, there was one striking omission. 
There is not a reference in any of them to the political 
party. They furnish the framework of government, and 
provide for the necessary number of departments and 
officials, but they disregard the very agency that made 
possible the successful working of the whole system. 
The fact that party organizations dominated colonial 
governments apparently escaped notice. It may be that 
because there was only one party during and for a time 
after the war, the conventions felt that the days of such 
activity were over. Or their neglect may be accounted 
for by an impression that parties were things of ill- 
repute, forces of the under-world of government, known 
to politicians, but not referred to in the polite society 
of respectable statesmen. Whatever may have been the 
reason, the constitutions were permeated with that 
eighteenth century obsession that all government, like 
ancient Gaul, was divided into three parts. Executive, 
legislative, and judicial departments were duly created 
and separated, but the first two proved to be in the 
future as they had been in the past merely the instru- 


ments of the majority party. As left by the Constitution, 
the government was externally complete, but sadly 
lacking within, like a motor car minus the engine. It 
might be added that this defect, undeniably a vital one, 
was subsequently remedied by Alexander Hamilton. 

The new system was scheduled to begin operations 
on March 4, 1789, but for various reasons there was a 
delay of nearly a month in getting under way. To those 
curious or interested citizens who were waiting to see 
how the House of Representatives would handle itself 
this circumstance must have seemed like an unpropitious 
beginning. Although there were but fifty-nine members 
in all, only thirteen of them were present on the date 
named, and it was not until April 1 that the organization 
was completed.^ 

In personnel the first national House of Representa- 
tives did not differ materially from any one of its 
thirteen prototypes in the states. Suffrage was extended 
to those qualified to vote for the ''most numerous branch 
of the State legislature, ' ' so there was no great likelihood 
that the national House would contain very much more 
in the way of talent and ability than its contemporaries. 

1 When the time for the third session arrived interest had been so com- 
pletely aroused that no time was lost. The following extract shows what 
difficulties were encountered by members from a distance. "The punc- 
tuality of the members has been such that we were within one of forming a 
quorum of both houses on the first day, a circumstance well worthy of note. 
We have today got over all preparatory ceremonies and shall now go 
seriously to work. I cannot foretell whether the Campaign will be a bloody 
one or not — it has opened with ominous circumstances; by taking the field 
at a season when other combatants go into winter quarters. Many of our 
champions have from the combined inconveniences of tempestuous weather 
and bad roads met with terrible disasters in repairing to the Camp. Burke 
was shipwrecked off the Capes; Jackson and Mathews with great difficulty 
landed at Cape May and travelled 160 miles in a wagon to the City. Burke 
got here in the same way. Gerry and Partridge were overset in the stage; 
the first had his head broke and made his Entree with an enormous black 
patch; the other had his ribs sadly bruised and was unable to stir for some 
days. Tucker had a dreadful passage of 16 days with perpetual storms." 
"The South Carolina Federalists," Am. Eist. Rev., XIV, 779. 


Every legislative body is something of a mirror, so to 
speak, in which the voters are reflected with a surprising 
degree of accuracy, so in this particular instance the 
members were good eighteenth century Americans, 
average representatives of the ruling class of the time. 
Many of them had the advantage of more or less expe- 
rience in their own local assemblies. Frederick Augustus 
Muhlenberg, the first Speaker of the House, had been 
trained in the duties of his office in Pennsylvania. He 
seems to have been blessed with common sense and tact, 
about the only qualifications needed at the time, because 
the speakership was not originally a political office. 

Perhaps an even more prominent member was James 
Madison, the ''little Virginian," who brought with him 
a fund of information concerning matters legislative 
and governmental. Because of his active part in the 
Federal Convention he was more widely known than 
Muhlenberg, and he rather than the Speaker was looked 
upon as the "first man" in the House. ^ While he was 
a man of intellectual ability, he lacked force and driving 
power, and was as guileless as a child in matters per- 
taining to clever political manoeuvring. Madison, wrote 
Fisher Ames, '4s probably deficient in that fervor and 
vigor of character which you will expect in a great man. 
He is not likely to risk bold measures, like Charles Fox, 
nor even to persevere in any measures against a firm 
opposition like the first Pitt. He derives from nature 
an excellent understanding, however, but I think he 
excels in the quality of judgment. He is possessed of 
a sound judgment, which perceives truth with great 
clearness, and can trace it through the mazes of debate, 
without losing it. He is admirable for this inestimable 
talent. As a reasoner he is remarkably perspicuous and 
methodical. He is a studious man, devoted to public 

2 Ames, Worlcs, I, 36. 


business, and a thorough master of almost every public 
question that can arise, or he will spare no pains to 
become so, if he happens to be in want of informa- 
tion. . . . His clear perception of an argument makes 
him impressive, and persuasive sometimes. . . . Upon 
the whole he is an useful, respectable, worthy man. . . . 
Let me add, without meaning to detract, that he is too 
much attached to his theories, for a politician. He is 
well versed in public life, was bred to it, and has no other 
profession. Yet, I may say, it is rather a science, than 
a business with him. He adopts his maxims as he finds 
them in books, and with too little regard to the actual 
state of things. ' " 

Among others deserving mention, the young member 
just quoted, Fisher Ames of Massachusetts, was one of 
the most promising. Early in his career he attracted 
attention through his vigorous advocacy of a powerful 
federal government, and he was one of the most enthu- 
siastic of Hamilton's supporters. He was even more 
clear-headed than Madison in his reasoning, and he 
certainly surpassed him in forcefulness of character. 
His own mind worked so rapidly that he was inclined 
to be intolerant of slowness in others, and he was 
continually expressing disgust at the deliberate and 
ponderous movements of the legislature. It was ill 
health rather than lack of ability that prevented him 
from rising to a position of prominence in national 

On the whole, the first House of Representatives would 
compare favorably with other bodies of its kind. It 
could apparently be depended upon to accomplish the 

3 Ames, WorTcs, I, 48-49. In an earlier letter Ames wrote that Madison 
was a ' ' man of sense, reading, address, and integrity, as 'tis allowed. Very 
much Frenchified in his politics. He speaks low, his person is little and 
ordinary. He speaks decently, as to manner, and no more. His language 
is very pure, perspicuous, and to the point," ibid., I, 35-36. 


work for which it was elected, and in so doing it would 
very likely waste as much time in debating trifles and 
in overemphasizing imaginary difficulties as its contem- 
poraries were in the habit of doing. Such is the way of 
democracy. Those who expected more of it, who were 
inclined to idealize it and to hope for great and even 
spectacular achievements were disappointed, for when 
it finally settled down to work it proved to be very 
legislature-like in its movements. At the end of his first 
eight weeks in Congress, Ames wrote : ' ' I felt chagrined 
at the yawning listlessness of many here, in regard to 
the great objects of the government; their liableness to 
the impression of arguments ad populum; their state 
prejudices; their overrefining spirit in relation to 
trifles; their attachment to some very distressing for- 
malities in business, and which will be a curse to all 
despatch and spirit in transacting it. I compared these 
with the idea I had brought here, of demi-gods and 
Roman Senators, or at least, of the first Congress. The 
objects now before us require more information, though 
less of the heroic qualities, than those of the first Con- 
gress. I was sorry to see that the picture I had drawn 
was so much bigger and fairer than the life. . . . But 
since, I have reflected coolly, that in all public bodies, 
the majority will be such as I have described — I may 
add, ought to be such ; and if a few understand business, 
and have, as they will, the confidence of those who do 
not, it is better than for all to be such knowing ones ; for 
they would contend for supremacy; there would not be 
a sufficient principle of cohesion. . . . The House is 
composed of very good men, not shining, but honest and 
reasonably well informed, and in time they will be found 
to improve, and not be much inferior in eloquence, 
science, and dignity, to the British Commons. They are 
patriotic enough, and I believe there are more stupid 


(as well as more shining) people in the latter, in propor- 
tion."* Two days later he wrote again: ''We are not 
in haste, or at least, have not learned to be in a hurry to 
advantage. I think it is the most dilatory assembly in 
the universe."^ 

In constructing the national legislature, the Federal 
Convention did little beyond laying down the broad out- 
lines. It provided for the Speaker of the House, but it 
left practically all other matters of organization and all 
the details of procedure to the House itself. With the 
wealth of precedents available in the journals of con- 
temporary state legislatures, there was really no definite 
reason why the first Representatives should not have 
formulated rules of procedure which would enable them 
to go ahead smoothly and rapidly in the transaction of 
business. They all knew, or could easily discover, how 
laws were made by their friends at home. And yet, in 
spite of all their experience, and their really remarkable 
opportunities for observation, they wasted time for want 
of good methods. At the end of two months, Madison 
wrote that "in every step the difficulties arising from 
novelty are severely experienced, and are an ample as 
well as just source of apology. Scarcely a day passes 
without some striking evidence of the delays and per- 
plexities springing merely from the want of precedents. 
Time will be a full remedy for this evil; and will I am 
persuaded, evince a greater facility in legislating uni- 
formly for all the States than has been supposed by some 
of the best friends of the Union."® 

The cause of that uncertainty, or lack of sure- 
footedness, was probably the fact that the members 
looked upon themselves as parts of an entirely new 

4 Ames, WorTcs, I, 44-45. The ' ' first Congress ' ' referred to was the 
Continental Congress, 
e Ihid., I, 50. 
6 Madison, Writings, V, 373. 


system.^ They seem to have preferred to adopt a very 
few familiar principles, just enough to make possible 
the transaction of business, and to wait for further rules 
until time and experience should reveal their exact needs. 
It is not strange that the members should be impressed 
with the importance of their position, and should go 
slowly in order to avoid possible errors. 

The outstanding feature of procedure in the House 
was the important part played by the committee of the 
whole. Much of the business in the House of Delegates 
of Virginia was transacted in that way, and the Vir- 
ginians were influential enough to impose their methods 
upon the federal House, in spite of the grumbling 
opposition on the part of members from other sections. 
The rules were so framed as to permit almost unre- 
stricted freedom of debate,® and every member was given 
unlimited opportunity to satisfy his own craving to talk, 
and incidentally to convince his watchful constituents 
at home that he was not neglecting their interests. As 
a matter of fact, this extensive use of the informal 
session was not wholly bad from the democratic point 
of view. The House was so small that it was a genuine 
deliberative assembly, in which national questions could 
be discussed and considered from every possible angle. 
It was in committee of the whole that Congress worked 
out the first tariff bill, and also the main outlines of 
such important measures as the laws organizing the 
executive departments.^ After the general principles 

7 Annuls, 1 Cong. 1, 383-384. In introducing the question of new execu- 
tive departments, Boudinot of New Jersey said that the departments under 
the ' ' late constitution ' ' were not to be considered as models, because of 
the changes brought about by the new constitution, and because of the 
"new distribution of legislative, executive, and judicial powers." This 
idea of a clean slate may have influenced Congress. 

s/fcid., 1 Cong. 1, 99, 101. 

9/&tU, 1, 106-109, 125-126, 144-147, 368, 370, 383-384, 399, 412, 427- 
428; 1 Cong. 3, 1888-1890. 


were once determined, select committees would be 
appointed to work out the details, and to frame bills 
in accordance with the decision already agreed upon in 
committee of the whole." 

The chief weakness in the system was that it pre- 
supposed a higher general level of intelligence among 
the members than was actually to be found. There were 
a few leaders, but only a few, who could carry on a 
profitable and illuminating discussion of general prin- 
ciples ; the rank and file were speedily lost in a fruitless 
if not inane debate over minor details. Naturally the 
more brilliant members were disgusted at the waste of 
time necessarily attendant upon the process. To quote 
Ames again, it was ''certainly a bad method of doing 
business. Too little use is made of special committees. 
Virginia is stiff and touchy against any change of the 
committee of the whole. . . . They are for watching and 
checking power; they see evils in embryo; are terrified 
with possibilities, and are eager to establish rights, and 
to explain principles, to such a degree, that you would 
think them enthusiasts and triflers."" 

The same active commentator also described a session 
of the committee of the whole at work on a bill. "We 
consider it in committee of the whole, and we indulge 
a very minute criticism upon its style. We correct 
spelling, or erase may and insert shall, and quiddle in a 
manner which provokes me. A select committee would 
soon correct little improprieties. Our great committee 
is too unwieldly for this operation. A great, clumsy 
machine is applied to the slightest and most delicate 
operations — the hoof of an elephant to the strokes of 

^0 Annals, 1 Cong. 1, 125, 258, 381, 412; 1 Cong. 2, 1094. Considerable 
work was done by these select committees, especially after the first session. 
Congress was in session from ten to three, "before and after which the 
business is going on in committees." Washington, Writings, XI, 484. 

11 Ames, Works, I, 64. 


mezzotinto. I dislike the committee of the whole more 
than ever. We could not be so long doing so little, by 
any other expedient.'"^ 

In view of their prominence in the state legislatures, 
it might naturally be supposed that standing committees 
would be called into being to transact much of the routine 
work of Congress. Such, however, was not the case. 
To be sure there was a committee of elections," appointed 
to inspect the credentials of members, and to investigate 
facts in connection with contested elections, but strictly 
speaking it performed no legislative work. Then, about 
two months before the end of the first session, a standing 
committee of ways and means was appointed, but its 
career was exceedingly brief. Finance committees in 
many of the states were familiar institutions, and 
naturally members who were acquainted with them 
suggested that the federal House would do well to 
provide itself with similar machinery. The question 
arose during the debate on the bill for organizing a 
treasury department. Livermore was opposed to giving 
any single official authority to submit plans for raising 
revenue. If the House itself was not in a position to 
do all such work, it ought to appoint a committee for 
that purpose. Gerry agreed that a committee of ways 
and means would be of great value in the transaction 
of financial business." A month later Fitzsimons urged 
definite action in the matter. ''If we wish to have more 
particular information on these points," he suggested 
while speaking of the revenue, "we ought to appoint a 
Committee of Ways and Means, to whom, among other 
things, the estimate of supplies may be referred, and 
this ought to be done speedily ..." His suggestion 
met with approval, and a committee of ten was ap- 

12 Ames, Worlcs, I, 61. 

i^ Annals, 1 Cong. 1, 122. 

14 Hid., 621, 625. 


pointed.^'' This appointment was made on July 24, 1789. 
On September 11, Alexander Hamilton entered npon his 
work as Secretary of the Treasury." On September 17, 
the committee of ways and means was ** discharged from 
further pioceeding on the business referred to them," 
and it was ''referred to the Secretary of the Treasury, 
to report thereon."" Henceforth there was hardly a 
mention of such a committee in Congress until December, 
1795, when Gallatin secured the appointment of the 
permanent committee. 

This transfer of authority from a committee of the 
House to Alexander Hamilton suggests the theory that 
Congress may have considered the newly created heads 
of departments as instruments not only of the president, 
but of the legislature as well. If that was the case, 
standing committees would of course be superfluous, 
because there was no particular need for a duplication 
of machinery. 

In the case of the departments of Foreign Affairs, or 
of State, as it was called shortly after, and of War, the 
statutes creating them contain nothing to warrant such 
an assumption. The secretaries of those departments 
were executive officials, required to perform whatever 
duties the president might entrust to them. The laws 
nowhere suggest that Congress enjoyed any authority 
to give them orders, or to assign any of their duties.^® 

Because of the intimate relationship between Hamilton 
and Congress, the status of the Treasury department 
merits a more careful examination. The Constitution 
itself conferred upon the House alone full power to 
originate revenue bills, and that privilege was very 
jealously guarded by thoroughgoing democrats. The 

15 Annals, 1 Cong. 1, 696-697. 

16 Learned, The President's Cabinet, p. 118. 

17 Annals, 1 Cong. 1, 929. 

18 Statutes at Large, I, 28, 49. 


establishment of the department gave rise to a lengthy 
debate. Boudinot of New Jersey brought up the question 
in the House, and recommended a law providing for a 
"Secretary of Finance," whose duties should be to 
superintend the treasury and finances of the country, 
and in particular to look after the public debt, revenue, 
and expenditure. With reference to revenue, Boudinot 
advised that the new official be given authority to "form 
and digest plans for its improvement."^^ In the mass 
of argument called forth by this seemingly sound 
recommendation two different points of view stand out 
very clearly. The Federalists, if the name may be 
applied to them as early as this, approved of Boudinot 's 
recommendation. They pointed out the manifest ad- 
vantages in having a single, expert official in charge, who 
would be ready at any time to lay carefully matured 
plans before Congress.^" 

The opponents of the measure argued that in permit- 
ting the secretary to "report" plans, the House would 
be guilty of giving up power definitely conferred upon 
it by the Constitution, and also that it would make the 
official altogether too powerful. One of Madison's 
colleagues. Page, thought the secretary might be per- 
mitted to prepare estimates, "but to go any further 
would be a dangerous innovation upon the constitutional 
privilege of this House. ..." It would establish a 
precedent, which might be extended until all the "min- 
isters of the Government" might be admitted to the 
floor to explain and support their plans, ' * thus laying the 
foundation for an aristocracy or a detestable mon- 
archy. "^^ Tucker agreed with Page. He thought that 
the granting of the proposed authority to report plans 
would "abridge the particular privilege of this House." 

19 Annals, 1 Cong. 1, 383-384. 

20 Hid., 617, 619. Ames, Works, I, 56. 
2-^ Annals, 1 Cong. 1, 615-616. 


Certainly revenue bills could not be said to originate 
in the House if they were reported by the "Minister of 
Finance. ' ' If the plans were to come from the executive 
at all, they should be sent in directly by the president, 
and not by a secretary.^^ 

Some of these fears were overcome by an amendment, 
which limited the secretary's authority to the prepara- 
tion of plans. He was not given the right to "report" 
them. Moreover, in no part of the act was the term 
"executive" department used. Then, too, there seemed 
to be a general feeling that such an official could easily 
be held in restraint. Madison wrote that a finance 
department was under consideration, "to be under one 
head, though to be branched out in such a manner as will 
check the administration."^^ Likewise Benson favored 
a single head, rather than a board, but he "would have 
the principal officer well checked in the execution of his 

As finally drawn, the statute was conspicuously 
different from those which created the other two depart- 
ments. It required the Secretary of the Treasury "to 
digest and prepare plans for the improvement and 
management of the revenue, and for the support of the 
public credit; to prepare and report estimates of the 
public revenue, and the public expenditures; ... to 
make report, and give information to either branch of 
the legislature, in person or in writing . . . respecting 
all matters referred to him by the Senate or House of 
Eepresentatives, or which shall appertain to his office; 
and generally to perform all such services relative to 
the finances, as he shall be directed to perform."'^ 

It seems evident that Congress planned to create an 

22 Annals, 1 Cong. 1, 616 

23 Madison, Writings, V, 371. 
2iA7inals, 1 Cong. 1, 384. 

25 Statutes at Large, I, 65-67. 


agent, not for the executive, but for itself. Both by 
actual phraseology and by implication the head of this 
department was subject to the legislature, and nowhere 
does the statute confer upon the president authority 
to assign duties to the Secretary of the Treasury. Such 
being the case, it is easy to explain the disappearance of 
the committee of ways and means. A single official, 
properly controlled, would be far more useful and far 
more efficient than a committee, the personnel of which 
might be subject to change every two years. In a 
cabinet meeting Hamilton once observed 'Hhat as to his 
department the act constituting it had made it subject 
to Congress in some points, but he thot himself not so 
far subject as to be obliged to produce all the papers 
they might call for."-" That interpretation was one of 
Hamilton's own, not warranted by the wording, and 
certainly inconsistent with the general tone of the law 

Nearly thirty years after the law was passed Monroe 
asserted that it was drawn ''by A. Hamilton, who was 
himself to be the Secretary, and whose object was to 
establish a direct intercourse between the members of 
the legislature and himself for his own purposes. "^^ 
Gallatin also had occasion to refer to the differences in 
these laws creating the departments, and he thought that 
the distinction was probably made in order to give 
** Congress a direct power, uncontrolled by the execu- 
tive" over financial matters. He did, however, query 
whether ''this remarkable distinction, which will be 
found to pervade all the laws relative to the Treasury 
Department, was not introduced to that extent in order 

28 Jeflferson, Writings, I, 190. 

27 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, IV, 217. Mr. Learned quotes this statement, 
with the comment that it is not worthy of very much credence. The 
President's Cabinet, p. 109. 


to give Mr. Hamilton a department independent of every 
executive control."^® 

These statements seem to have been nothing more than 
theories of Gallatin and Monroe, and unless more evi- 
dence appears they cannot be taken very seriously. If 
Hamilton 's activities as party leader throw any light on 
this subject, it might be safe to say positively that he 
did not draft the bill. Instead of giving Congress 
authority over his office, he would have been far more 
likely to reverse the relationship. 

Although the departments of State and of War were 
not legally subject to Congressional orders, they together 
with the Treasury department were called upon to par- 
ticipate in the work of legislation. Instead of being 
referred to standing committees, as would have been the 
case in state legislatures, some routine business was 
turned over to cabinet officials. In dealing with certain 
matters recommended by Washington in one of his 
speeches to Congress, the House asked the Secretary of 
the Treasury to prepare and report plans for the 
encouragement of manufactures, while a similar request 
concerning a system of weights and measures was sent 
to the Secretary of State.^^ Not long afterward Hamilton 
laid before the House a report from the postmaster 
general, together with a bill drawn by the same official. 
Although one of the members took exception to this 
practice of receiving bills from the heads of departments, 
the custom was not abandoned.^" At about the same time 
Madison wrote that the chief measures before Congress 
were "the plans of revenue and the Militia, reported by 

28 Gallatin, Works, I, 66-67. 

29 Annals, 1 Cong. 2, 1095. In dealing with other matters mentioned 
in the speech, the House appointed select committees to bring in bills in 
accordance with recommendations made. 

30 Ihid., 2, 1114. 


Hamilton and Knox.'"^ Later, Jefferson as Secretary 
of State, drafted a bill ^'to promote the progress of the 
useful arts," which was introduced into the House on 
February 7, 1791.^' 

In addition to depending upon the secretaries for the 
drafting of an occasional bill, the House also called upon 
them to deal with certain petitions. In the state legis- 
latures such work would have gone to standing com- 
mittees, but Congress seemed to feel that the head of 
a department would answer the purpose just as well as 
a committee.^^ Surely if it could use the heads of depart- 
ments in this way, the House might well dispense with 
standing committees. 

Such a loose-jointed organization as this would work 
smoothly only under certain conditions, which are seldom 
found in any legislative body. If they expect to evolve 
the main outlines of important measures in committee 
of the whole, all the members must work together in a 
spirit of genuine cooperation and friendliness. Or, to 
put it in another way, for the successful operation of 
Congress under that kind of procedure, there must be 
a total absence of political parties. 

These conditions prevailed for a time in the first 
Congress, so that there was very little factional bitter- 
ness or organized party effort. Such a striking pecu- 
liarity naturally attracted the attention of the members, 
some of whom felt impelled to report the phenomenon 
to their friends at home. One southern member wrote 

31 Madison, Letters, I, 501-502. 

32 Jeflferson, Works, V, 278-280; Annals, 1 Cong. 3, 1937. For a similar 
instance, see Jefferson, WorTcs, V, 302-304. 

33 Petitions referred to the Secretary of the Treasury: Annals, 1 Cong. 1, 
917; 1 Cong. 2, 1395, 1413, 1522; 1 Cong. 3, 1873. To the Secretary of 
State: 1 Cong. 2, 1572. To the Secretary of War: 1 Cong. 3, 1861, 1963; 
"Sundry reports from the Secretary of War, on petitions referred to him 
were read, and laid on the table." These are simply examples, not a 
complete list. 


that he ''received great pleasure from observing the 
liberality and spirit of mutual concession which appear 
to actuate every member of the House," and that he had 
''not observed the least attempt to create a party, . . ."^* 
Another reported that "Much harmony, politeness and 
good humor have hitherto prevailed in both houses — 
our debates are conducted with a moderation and ability 
extremely unusual in so large a body — consisting of men 
under the influence of such jarring interests.'"^ And 
even Fisher Ames, who allowed nothing to pass un- 
noticed, and who certainly would have mentioned party 
differences if there had been any, wrote that "There 
is less of party spirit, less of the acrimony of pride when 
disappointed of success, less personality, less intrigue, 
cabal, management, or cunning than I ever saw in a 
public assembly. . . . Measures are so far from being 
the product of caucussing and cabal, that they are not 
sufficiently preconcerted. ' '^^ 

These statements, it should be noticed, refer to the 
early part of the session, before the Congressmen had 
fully recovered from the effects of a strange environ- 
ment. The first actors on a new stage, mindful of the 
dignity of their position, and perhaps somewhat in awe 
of one another, would naturally display not only great 
consideration, but even mutual respect. Familiarity 
hardly gets time to breed contempt in the short space 
of two months. 

It was not so much the fault of the individual members, 
however, as of the very nature of the federal Congress 
itself that this cahn could not endure. Sectional differ- 
ences, real and imaginary, to say nothing of widely 
divergent theories of government, were bound to produce 

34 McEee, Life of Iredell, II, 258. 

35 "South Carolina Federalists," Am. Hist. Bev., XIV, 776. 

36 Ames, Works, 1, 61-62. 


dissensions, and from factional strife thus generated it 
is but a short step to party organization with all its 
accompanying cabals and intrigues. Men capable of 
drawing conclusions from very evident facts could not 
remain blind to approaching changes. It is not sur- 
prising to find that even while he was rejoicing at the 
absence of party quarrels, Fisher Ames was carefully 
analyzing the forces of disruption already at work. He 
found, it seems, that ''Three sorts of people are often 
troublesome. The anti-federals, who alone are weak, and 
some of them well disposed. The dupes of local preju- 
dices, who fear eastern influences, monopolies, navigation 
acts. And lastly the violent republicans, as they think 
fit to style themselves, who are new lights in politics; 
who would not make the law, but the people, king; who 
would have a government all checks; who are more 
solicitous to establish, or rather to expatiate upon, some 
high-sounding principle of republicanism, than to protect 
property, cement the union, and perpetuate liberty. 
' This new Constitution, ' said one Abner Fowler, in 1787, 
'will destroy our liberties. We shall never have another 
mob in the world.' This is the republicanism of the 
aristocracy of the southern nabobs. It breaks out daily, 
tinctures the debates with the hue of compromise, makes 
bold, manly, energetic measures very difficult. The 
spectre of Patrick Henry haunts their dreams. They 
accuse the eastern people with despotic principles, and 
take no small consequence to themselves as the defenders 
of liberty."" Ames' letter merely indicates that a 
change might be expected at any moment. Other 
accounts prove that differences soon made themselves 
evident. In the course of another month several members 
had complaints to make about party controversies. 
Senator Butler, for instance, of South Carolina, wrote 

37 Ames, Worhs, I, 62. 


that he was very much disappointed with the new 
government. ' ' I find, ' ' he wrote, ' ' locality and partiality 
reign as much in our Supreme Legislature as they could 
in a county court or State legislature. Never was a man 
more egregiously disappointed than I am. I came here 
full of hopes that the greatest liberality would be exer- 
cised ; that the consideration of the whole, and the general 
good, would take the place of every other object; but 
here I find men scrambling for partial advantages. State 
interests, and in short, a train of those narrow, impolitic 
measures that must, after a while, shake the Union to its 
very foundation.'"^ 

When the question of the permanent residence came 
up, intrigues began in earnest.^® One disconsolate 
member complained that ''amendments in Congress are 
as much wanted as in the Constitution. ' '*" A year later 
whatever regard the members may have had for each 
others' feelings had pretty much disappeared. By that 
time "violence, personality, low wit, violation of order, 
and rambling from the point" characterized at least one 
debate. Apparently the discussion took such a bitter 
turn that the papers did not venture to report in full, 
and we are again indebted to Ames for a vivid descrip- 
tion. ''The Quakers have been abused, the eastern 
States inveighed against, the chairman rudely charged 
with partiality. Language low, indecent, and profane 
has been used; wit equally stale and wretched has been 
attempted; in short, we have sunk below the General 
Court in the disorderly moment of a bawling nomination 
of a committee, or even of country (rather Boston) town 
meeting. The southern gentry have been guided by their 
hot tempers, and stubborn prejudices and pride in regard 

38McEe€, Life of Iredell, II, 263-265. 

39 Ames, Works, I, 69. 

40 Pickering MSS., XIX, 172. 


to southern importance and negro slavery . . . they have 
shown an uncommon want of prudence as well as mod- 
eration; they have teased and bullied the House out of 
their good temper, and driven them to vote in earnest 
on a subject which at first they did not care much 

The later debate on the permanent residence exasper- 
ated the young member from Massachusetts. *'I care 
little where Congress may sit. I would not find fault 
with Fort Pitt, if we could assume the debts, and proceed 
in peace and quietness. But this despicable grogshop 
contest, whether the taverns of New York or Philadelphia 
shall get the custom of Congress, keeps us in discord 
and covers us all with disgrace. ... It is barely possible 
for any business to be more perplexed and entangled 
than this has been. We have fasted, watched, and 
prayed for the cause. I never knew so much industry 
and perseverance exerted for any cause. Mr. Sedgwick 
is a perfect slave to the business. Mr. Goodhue frowns 
all day long, and swears as much as a good Christian 
can, about the perverseness of Congress." Then with 
reference to finance he wrote: ^'We are passing the 
ways and means bill. We do so little and behave so ill 
in doing it that I consider Congress as meriting more 
reproach than has yet been cast upon it. ' '*^ 

This comparatively sudden appearance of partisan 
differences made possible and even necessary the creation 
of a well-organized legislative machine. No faction 
could afford to sit idly by and rely upon a discussion in 
committee of the whole to evolve and formulate its 

"Ames, Worlcs, I, 75. Cf. Maelay, Journal, p. 222. "The House have 
certainly greatly debased their dignity, using base, invective, indecorous 
language; three or four up at a time manifesting signs of passion, the 
most disorderly wanderings in their speeches, telling stories, private anec- 
dotes," etc. 

42 Ames, Works, I, 80. 


favorite measures. Still less could it hope to secure 
the enactment of its policies without a concerted effort 
to win votes. The fear that their opponents might 
resort to those unparliamentary but extremely effective 
tactics already well known to the state legislatures 
compelled them all to resort to the same methods. 
Instead of waiting for action in committee of the whole, 
the party leaders would decide upon their policies and 
draft bills in accordance therewith in party councils. 
The scene of actual legislation would be shifted from 
Congress to the caucus. 

The Federalists were the first to profit by this division 
of the House into party groups, partly because they were 
in the majority, but more especially because they enjoyed 
the tremendous advantage of able leadership. Tempera- 
mentally more of a philosopher than a general, Madison 
himself was never able really to command a majority, 
while Jefferson, the creator of the Republican party, was 
still laboring under the delusion that as an executive 
official he must keep clear of Congress. Opposed to him 
was the great Federalist chieftain, Alexander Hamilton, 
who stood without a peer as an organizer and director 
of party forces.*'* His ready intelligence grasped the 
truth at once that Jefferson spent more than ten years 
in learning : that not even the Constitution of the United 
States could keep apart two such inseparable factors in 
government as executive and legislature. His official 
position naturally brought him into close contact with 
Congress, and enabled him to see that such a loosely 
organized body was simply waiting for a commander. 
The mere fact that he was not a member was not the 
slightest obstacle to him, because it was easier to domi- 
nate Congress indirectly, through the medium of a 
political party, than directly from the floor. 

43 Adams, Gallatin, p. 268. 


By the winter of 1790, Hamilton was attracting atten- 
tion because of his influence over Congress. In March 
of that year in the course of a debate on an appropriation 
bill, one Jackson moved an amendment, providing for 
an appropriation for clearing the Savannah River. In 
reply to objections made to his amendment, he remarked 
that ''according to the ideas of some gentlemen, the 
House had no right to add to the appropriations pro- 
posed by the Secretary," and that "according to this 
doctrine, the whole business of Legislation may as well 
be submitted to him, so in fact the House would not be 
the Representatives of their constituents, but of the 
Secretary. ' '** 

In the diary of Senator Maclay there are several brief 
but pithy comments which reveal both the extent and 
the nature of Hamilton 's power in Congress. * ' It really 
seems," he wrote, "as if a listlessness or spirit of lazi- 
ness pervaded the House of Representatives. Anything 
which comes from a Secretary is adopted almost without 
any examination." Referring to the bank bill, he com- 
plained to the pages of his diary that "It is totally in 
vain to oppose this bill." "Nothing," he wrote, "is 
done without him." Sometimes the democratic senator 
seemed ready to throw up his hands in despair at the 
total inability of the opposition to stem the tide of 
Hamiltonian legislation. Some such state of mind must 
have been responsible for the following: "Were Elo- 
quence personified and reason flowed from her tongue, 
her talents would be in vain in our assembly; . . . 
Congress may go home. Mr. Hamilton is all-powerful, 
and fails in nothing he attempts. ' '*^ 

Such general assertions would not necessarily mean 
very much by themselves, but they are supplemented by 

** Annals, 1 Cong. 2, 1499. 

*5 Maclay, Journal, pp. 246, 364, 385, 387. 


occasional references both to specific instances of Ham- 
ilton's activity in Congress, and to his methods of 
operation. For instance, Maclay mentions four separate 
measures, the assumption, bank, and excise bills, and a 
resolution regarding the mint, all of which were passed 
in spite of opposition, largely through the influence and 
personal efforts of Hamilton himself.*® 

His success was due in large measure to his careful 
oversight of the whole process of legislation. Maclay 
even went so far as to assert that ''Hamilton prepares 
all matters for his tools. "*^ Then, in order to prevent 
his measures from falling into the hands of an ill- 
disposed select committee in Congress, the able secretary 
looked after the appointment of some committees him- 
self.*^ If the committee needed the benefit of his advice, 
he was ready to give it, of course, and in some cases he 
even went so far as to attend committee meetings,*^ to 
guard against the danger of a slip at any stage. 

After the preliminary steps had been taken, and the 
measure was on its way through Congress, Hamilton 
spared no pains to secure its passage. In case its success 
was doubtful, the measure would be held back, until the 
end of the session if necessary, or at least until a majority 
in its favor was certain. Referring to the resolution on 
the mint, Maclay charged that Hamilton "kept back this 
exceptionable business till there would be no time to 
investigate it," and that, finally, '4t was foully smuggled 
through. ' ' 


46 Maclay, Journal, pp. 209, 355, 385, 409. 

47 Ibid., pp. 409, 389. 

i» Ibid., p. 331; "Everything, even to the naming of a committee, is 
prearranged by Hamilton and his group of speculators. ..." 

49j&id., p. 385. 

50 Ibid., p. 409. Cf. 208 : ' ' 'Twas freely talked of that the question 
was to have been taken this day on the assumption of the State debts, but 
Vining, from the Delaware State, is come in, and it was put off until he 
would be prepared by the Secretary, I suppose. ..." 


One or two more quotations throw interesting light 
on Hamilton's ceaseless vigilance and activity. ''Mr. 
Hamilton is very uneasy, as far as I can learn, about his 
funding system. He was here early to wait on the 
Speaker, and I believe spent most of his time in running 
from place to place among the members. "^^ 

Regarding the assumption measure, Maclay wrote: 
**I do not know that pecuniary influence has actually 
been used, but I am certain that every other kind of 
management has been practiced and every tool at work 
that could be thought of. OflScers of Government, clergy, 
citizens, Cincinnati, and every person under the influence 
of the Treasury ; Bland and Huger carried to the chamber 
of Representatives — the one lame, the other sick. 
Clymer stopped from going away, though he had leave, 
and at length they risked the question and carried it, 
thirty-one votes to twenty-six. And all this after having 
tampered with the members since the 22^<i of last month, 
and this only in committee. . . . "" 

Again he wrote: "In Senate this day the gladiators 
seemed more than commonly busy. As I came out from 
the Hall, all the President's family were there — 
Humphreys, Jackson, Nelson, etc. They had Vining with 
them, and, as I took it, were a standing committee to 
catch the members as they went in or came out. ' '^^ 

The facts described above do not necessarily prove 
that there was very much of a party organization in 
1790; they merely show that the Secretary of the 
Treasury was the most important factor in Congress 
during its first session. Yet the main outlines of party 
organization were clearly visible even as early as that. 
In order to secure harmony and unanimity of action, 

51 Maclay, Journal, p. 189, 

52 Ibid., p. 209. 

53 Ibid., p. 235. 


it was customary for Hamilton's followers to hold 
meetings of their own. Although the word ''caucus" 
was not applied to these party gatherings, they were 
caucuses in all but name. It was on these occasions 
apparently that policies were determined upon, and it 
was doubtless the assurances obtained in them that 
enabled Hamilton to estimate the probable vote with 
such exactness. Maclay refers to "the rendezvousing of 
the crew of the Hamilton galley," or to a ''call of the 
gladiators this morning," or again to the statement 
of Speaker Muhlenberg that "there had been a call of 
the Secretary's party last night. "^* These allusions are 
made in a perfectly matter-of-fact way, as though 
such meetings were already looked upon as familiar 

In view of these facts it is not surprising that 
Hamilton's financial policy was adopted in the face of 
bitter opposition. The Federalists were well organized 
and intelligently directed by a masterful leader, while 
at first the chaotic group of country gentlemen, the 
followers of Madison and Jefferson, could do nothing 
but growl and complain of corruption. From their point 
of view such success as Hamilton enjoyed could not be 
honestly won. 

When he was complaining about the difficulties due to 
want of precedents, Madison was not aware of the actual 
nature of the trouble with Congress. The real need was 
not more rules, but more driving power. That was 
furnished by the Hamiltonian or Federalist party 
organization, and thus the gap in the Constitution was 
bridged over. The change that had taken place was of 
such nature as to fill with unpleasant forebodings the 
democratic minds of the "new lights in politics." One 
of their ideals was shattered before the new govern- 

54 Maclay, Journal, pp. 208, 227, 235. 


ment was even two years old. Instead of being a forum, 
where every member was a peer and no man led, where 
great principles of government were evolved through the 
give and take of unrestricted discussion, Congress as 
such had become in effect a mere ratifying body. The 
real work of legislation was put in shape, not in the 
legislature, but in secret session of the majority party. 
In this organization, unknown to the Constitution and 
beyond the reach of the rules of either chamber, the 
executive could work with the party-following in 
Congress, and secure the adoption of a prearranged 

This relationship between executive and Congress 
suggests the theory that the heads of departments may 
have considered themselves a cabinet similar in some 
respects to the English cabinet. If that was the case, 
their interest in drafting bills and in the course of legis- 
lative activity is very easily explained. If Hamilton 
was looked upon as a minister of finance he was not a 
self-seeking usurper, as Maclay considered him, a man 
interested in ruling the House partly from love of power, 
and partly from love of personal gain. Instead he was 
a part of the ministry, an executive official in charge of 
finance. Considering himself directly responsible for 
that department of the government, naturally he would 
exert himself to the utmost to secure the adoption of his 
policy. That conception of the heads of the departments 
as a ministry also explains the attitude of the Federalists 
toward their chief. If it was his duty to lead Congress, 
it was just as much its duty to follow. What was a party 
for if not to sanction and approve the carefully drawn 
plans of its leaders? 

At that time, aside from the respectful manner in 
which the Federalists supported Hamilton, there was 
nothing to justify such a theory. In 1797, however, the 


views of the Federalists, as voiced by Fisher Ames, do 
permit such an interpretation. Referring to the Repub- 
lican attempts to assert the power of the House at the 
expense of the executive, he wrote : ' ' Our whole system 
is little removed from simple democracy. What we call 
the government is a phantom, as long as the democrats 
prevail in the House. The heads of departments are 
head clerks. Instead of being the ministry, the organs of 
the executive power, and imparting a kind of momentum 
to the operation of the laws, they are precluded of late 
even from communicating with the House, by reports. 
In other countries they may speak as well as act. We 
allow them to do neither. We forbid even the use of a 
speaking-trumpet ; or, more properly, as the Constitution 
has ordained that they shall be dumb, we forbid them 
to explain themselves by signs. Two evils, obvious to 
you, result from all this. The efficiency of the govern- 
ment is reduced to its minimum — the proneness of a 
popular body to usurpation is already advancing to its 
maximum; committees already are the ministers; and 
while the House indulges a jealousy of encroachment on 
its functions, which are properly deliberative, it does 
not perceive that these are impaired and nullified by the 
monopoly as well as the perversion of information by 
these very committees. The silly reliance of our coffee- 
house and Congress prattlers on the responsibility of 
the members to the people, &c., &c., is disgraced by every 
page of the history of popular bodies. We expect, con- 
fidently, that the House of Representatives will act out 
of its proper character — for if it should act according 
to it, we are lost. 

''Our government will be, in fact, a mere democracy, 
which has never been tolerable nor long tolerated. "^^ 

Evidently Ames believed that Congress needed a guide, 

55 Hamilton, WorJcs, VI, 201, Ames to Hamilton, 


and he would have had the executive act in that capacity. 
Harmony of purpose, unity of action, and fixed respon- 
sibility for measures passed, all these advantages could 
have been secured from the operation of such a system. 
But the Jeffersonians, before they controlled the admin- 
istration, looked upon such a government as tyranny. 
Speaking of the House under democratic control, Ames 
ironically wrote: "We think the executive power is a 
mere pageant of the representative body — a custos 
rotulorum, or master of the ceremonies. We ourselves 
are but passive instruments, whenever the sovereign 
people choose to speak for themselves. . . ."°* 

The totally opposite theories of government held by 
the Federalist and Jeffersonian parties were thus clearly 
brought out in their attitude toward the popular branch 
of Congress. One would give the balance of power to 
the executive, and make it the influential factor in legis- 
lation, while the other would subject the executive to 
Congressional control. This difference supplies the key 
to the history of Congress for several years to come. 

66 Hamilton, Works, VI, 202. 


In spite of the criticism of their opponents, the Fed- 
eralists continued their work in the second Congress 
along lines laid down in the first. Measures decided 
upon by the executive were submitted to the legislature, 
and duly passed. There was no disregard of the care- 
fully planned policies of Washington and Hamilton, no 
attempt on the part of the majority in the legislature to 
take unto itself the whole management of public affairs. 
If there was any change at all, it was in the direction 
of an even closer and more systematic relationship 
between Hamilton and the House of Representatives. 
For example, when the president recommended certain 
changes in the excise law, the Federalists had the sub- 
ject referred to the Secretary of the Treasury, instead 
of to a committee, on the ground that he was in the best 
position to furnish the needed information.^ 

Again, when money was needed for the protection of 
the frontiers, Hamilton furnished the Congressional 
leaders with the draft of a revenue bill for that purpose.^ 
Shortly afterwards, Sedgwick recommended that the 
Secretary of the Treasury be directed to suggest to the 
House the best method of raising additional funds for 
the coming year. In defending his proposition, he 
assumed that the general principle had been adopted, 
that the secretary should be considered responsible 

1 Annals, 2 Cong. 1, 150-152. Even Sedgwick, a Federalist, objected to 
this particular reference, on the ground that there was "a manifest im- 
propriety and want of respect in referring any part of the President's 
Speech, or a law of the Union, to the Head of any particular Department. ' ' 

2 Ibid., 349. 


for formulating financial measures for the legislature. 
Without such help, he argued, orderly conduct of finance 
was impossible. With the infinite detail of general busi- 
ness to look after, the House itself could not devote the 
necessary time and attention to the subject of revenue.^ 

If these measures were evil, from the Republican point 
of view, the resolution introduced early the next session 
was infinitely worse. In the course of the debate on 
General St. Clair's defeat, some members wished to 
invite the Secretaries of War and the Treasury to attend 
the session, in order that they might furnish the House 
with reliable information. This proposition, however, 
was going too far even for some of the Federalists, and 
the motion was lost.* 

While the Federalists were thus strengthening their 
organization, their opponents, hardly a party as yet, 
were being drawn together through their fear of ''the 
aristocrats" in general, and their distrust of Hamilton 
in particular. They could see nothing but evil in the 
intimate relationship between secretary and Congress. 
"Have we, in truth, originated this money bill? Do we 
ever originate any money bill?" vehemently asked 
Mercer, in opposing a revenue measure which Hamilton 
had sent into the House. ''It is in my judgment," he 
continued, "a direct infraction of the letter and spirit 
of the Constitution, of the principles of free govern- 
ment ..." Then he concluded : " I have long remarked 
in this House, that the Executive, or rather the Treasury 
Department, was really the efficient Legislature of the 
country, so far as relates to the revenue, which is the 
vital principle of Government. The clause of the Consti- 
tution confirming to the immediate Representatives of 

3 Annals, 2 Cong. 1, 437-440; Sedgwick's resolution was carried, 31-27, 
p. 452. 

4 Ibid., 2 Cong. 2, 679, 684, 689. 


the people, in this House, the origination of money bills, 
is converted into a Committeeship of sanction, that never 
withholds its assent.'" 

Sedgwick's resolution, referred to above, was the cause 
of a long debate on this same general question. In per- 
mitting the secretary to submit revenue measures, the 
House was guilty, so Page charged, of a "dereliction of 
our duty." Findlay opposed the resolution because he 
thought it was ** contrary to the principles of the gov- 
ernment, and inconsistent with the purity and independ- 
ence of the House of Representatives, whose duty it is 
exclusively to prepare or originate revenue laws. . . . 
I consider this mode as a transfer of Legislative author- 
ity."® From their point of view, the mode of taxation 
should have been determined by the House itself, and 
not until that preliminary work had been done, in com- 
mittee of the whole, could even the mechanical arrange- 
ment of details be delegated to a secretary or to a 

The line between the two groups in the House was 
sharply drawn on this issue. Both agreed that the Con- 
stitution conferred upon the House alone authority to 
initiate revenue bills. The Federalists maintained that 
the constitutional provision in question did not prevent 

6 Annals, 2 Cong. 1, 349-354. 

6 Ihid., 441, 447. 

T Ibid., 349; ibid., 2 Cong. 2, 693, 694, 700, 704. National Gazette, Apr. 
12, Apr. 23, Nov. 17, 1792. 

The National Gazette held that the proper duties of the Secretary of 
the Treasury were those of a head clerk rather than of a minister of 
finance. He should look after the subordinate officials in his department, 
apply the revenue to those purposes for which appropriations had been 
made, and give information concerning those matters to the President or 
to Congress. 

In addition to being fundamentally wrong in itself, so the Eepublicans 
argued, this Federalist policy of dependence on the secretary would lead 
inevitably to corruption, and private interests rather than the general 
welfare would become the determining factor in public finance. Annals, 
2 Cong. 1, 450; Jefferson, Works, VI, 103. 


the members from seeking expert advice from their own 
agent, the Treasury department. Any or all of the sec- 
retary's recommendations could be rejected by Con- 
gress, so the liberties of the people were in no way 
endangered. Their opponents, however, would receive 
advice from no one outside the House. As the chosen 
representatives of the voters it was their duty to per- 
form every task set before them properly and in order. 

When dealing -with party differences such as this, it 
is always difficult to estimate to what extent the argu- 
ments are based on genuine conviction, and to what 
extent they are occasioned, consciously or otherwise, 
by political expediency. Doubtless at this time all 
of those Eepublican speakers were absolutely sin- 
cere. It is necessary to remember though that the 
minority very frequently condemns a measure or a 
method as unconstitutional when the sole argument 
against it is that it has been successfully used by a vic- 
torious majority. The leaders of the opposition, some- 
times purposely, sometimes unconsciously, see in the 
defeat of their party not the simple and inevitable for- 
tune of political warfare, but a very grave attack upon 
the fundamental principles of the government. The 
weaker side very frequently poses as the divinely ap- 
pointed guardian of popular rights, and it voices its 
protests with a vociferousness inversely proportioned to 
its actual power. 

Be that as it may, the Eepublicans made it perfectly 
clear that if they should ever get the upper hand in Con- 
gress, they would make short work of Hamilton, and 
restore to the House what they considered to be its con- 
stitutional authority over finance. When the Congres- 
sional elections of 1792 assured them of a clear majority 
in the next House, they settled back to wait for better 
days, openly announcing their intention of blocking fur- 


ther Federalist action by every means in their power.® 
That they at least embarrassed the majority is proved 
by the words of Hamilton himself, whose contempt for 
the Republicans was even greater than their distrust of 
him. " 'Tis not the load of proper ojffilcial business that 
alone engrosses me," he wrote to John Jay, ''though 
this would be enough to occupy any man. 'Tis in the 
extra attention I am obliged to pay to the course of 
legislative manoeuvres that alone adds to my burden 
and perplexity."® 

When the third Congress convened, the Republicans, 
with all the seriousness of reformers with a mission, 
settled down to their self-appointed task of restoring the 
constitutional balance. Early in the session the secre- 
tary and his clerks were embarrassed by incessant de- 
mands for information of one sort and another. To the 
Federalists, these repeated calls seemed to be nothing 
but a scheme to perplex their chief, and to discredit him 
in the eyes of the public." 

On February 24, 1794, a resolution proposed by Giles 
was taken up from the table, after a month's delay, and 
passed. According to Giles himself, the primary pur- 
pose of the manoeuvre was "to ascertain the boundaries 
of discretion and authority between the Legislature and 
the Treasury Department."" On the same day the 
chaste columns of the Aurora, as if by prearrangement, 
expressed the hope that the darkness in which the opera- 
tions of the Treasury had so long been concealed would 
very shortly be cleared up.^^ The fight to eject Hamil- 
ton from his post as "minister of finance" was on. 

8 Ames, WorTcs, I, 128. 

9 Hamilton, Works, X, 29. 

10 Gibbs, Fed. Adm., I, 127, 129. 

11 Annals, 3 Cong. 1, 463-464. 

"^^ General Advertiser (Phila. Aurora), Feb. 24, 1794. Comparing the 
obscurity of the Senate with that of the Treasury, the Aurora said: "One 
is a republican — the other, a fiscal darkness. Yet there are some, who 


As the bitterness of the controversy steadily increased, 
Hamilton began to give evidence of irritation. On March 
3, as he was reporting on some petitions, he seized the 
opportunity to ask for relief from troublesome routine 
of that kind. He suggested that it might be ' ' expedient 
to place the business of reporting on petitions in some 
other channel, as the pressure of his official duties, in 
addition to the extra business of the inquiry into the 
Treasury Department, will not permit him to pay that 
seasonable and prompt attention to these petitions which 
the parties expect, and have just claim to.'"^ 

The first and most obvious result of Republican con- 
trol of the House was the end of Hamilton's influence in 
financial legislation. Unable, or rather unwilling, to 
accept propositions regarding revenue from the Treas- 
ury, the new majority was compelled to evolve some new 
machinery for handling its financial work. Even to many 
of them the idea of leaving everything to the committee 
of the whole seemed hardly practicable, so a select com- 
mittee was appointed to find out what, if any, additional 
revenue would be needed, and to report ways and means 
for raising the necessary sums." Even this seemingly 
constitutional plan was looked upon with suspicion by 
some arch-democrats. Page, for instance, said that of 
the two evils, he really preferred dependence upon the 

The Republican contention that the committee of the 
whole was the real revenue raising body was given defi- 
nite expression in the new rules adopted for the next 

make us doubt our very senses, by assuring us, that both the walls of the 
one, and the intricacy of the other, are sufficiently luminous for the purposes 
of government. The full light shortly to be expected from one opaque 
body, (Sen) gives us a gleam of hope, that the other may one day be also 
elucidated. ' ' 

13 Annals, 3 Cong. 1, 475. 

lilhid., 531. 

i^Ibid., 532. 


session. Henceforth every proposal regarding a tax had 
to be discussed in committee of the whole, and the House 
itself was forbidden to make any increase in the amount 
of any proposed tax until such increase had been sanc- 
tioned by the committee of the whole. In like manner all 
appropriations were to be first moved and discussed in 
committee of the whole.^® 

Apparently realizing that so much opposition would 
render his services useless, Hamilton soon withdrew 
from oflSce. So far as ejecting him was concerned, the 
Republican efforts had been crowned with success." 

Republican supremacy in the House seriously inter- 
fered with the course of systematic, orderly legislation 
to which that body was becoming accustomed. It was the 
Federalist party organization rather than any improve- 
ment in procedure as such which had made possible the 
rapid transaction of business. Once their generalship 
was rendered useless, the House began to drift. The 
Republicans at first could boast neither organization nor 
leadership, and worse still they had no constructive 
policy. The only bond which held them together was 
their common distrust of Hamilton, and when his power 
in the House was broken, the party was left on the verge 
of collapse. "The influence of the Ex. on events," wrote 
Madison in May, 1794, ''the use made of them, and the 
public confidence in the P. are an overmatch for all the 

16 Annals, 3 Cong. 2, 881. 

17 Hamilton left office in January, 1795. His withdrawal did not, how- 
ever, prevent Washington from calling upon him for advice. "Although 
you are not in the administration ... I must, nevertheless (knowing how 
intimately acquainted you are with all the concerns of this country,), 
request the favor of you to note down such occurrences as, in your opinion, 
are proper subjects for communication to Congress at this next session — 
and particularly as to the manner in which this treaty should be brought 
forward to that body; as it will, in any aspect it is susceptible of receiv- 
ing, be the source of much declamation, and will, I have no doubt, produce 
a hot session." Washington to Hamilton, August 31, 1795. Hamilton, 
Works, VI, 34. 


efforts Republicanism can make. The party of that 
sentiment in the Senate is completely wrecked; and in 
the H. of Reps in a much worse condition than at an 
earlier period of the session.'"^ 

Republican incompetence was most clearly revealed 
in their attempts to deal with problems of finance. Their 
great object was to restore to the House its control over 
revenue, but when they found themselves confronted 
with the disagreeable task of raising money, they were 
completely at sea. The committee appointed March 26 
held daily sessions to work out plans, but progress was 
very slow. The ''fiscal party," as Monroe called the 
Federalists, urged additional duties on imports, but the 
''citizen party" favored a tax on land. They "seem 
backward on the subject in every view:" wrote Monroe, 
and "regret that an occasion has been made for any 
great increase. . . . The fiscal party say to the other, 
you have taken the business from the Tre'y- department, 
shew y 'rselves equal to it, & bring forward some system. 
The latter replies, the practice of reference has been 
condemned by the publick voice as other things will be 
when understood ; the rejection of it is a triumph of the 
people and of the constitution over their & its abuse ; but 
the provision of taxes is not more the duty of those who 
have been active in the rejection than of those who 
opposed it. If it is more the duty of one than of the 
other side, it is particularly that of those who have made 
taxes necessary. "^^ 

It was perhaps only natural that the Republicans 
should spend more time in bemoaning the need of taxes 
than in devising ways and means. But the depths of 
their ignorance concerning matters political could not 
be more clearly revealed than it was in this letter. The 

18 Madison, Writings, VI, 216. 

19 Monroe, Writings, I, 290. 


''citizen party" seemed convinced that even though the 
Federalists were in the minority, they might still be held 
responsible for doing the work. 

In commenting on the new regime the Federalists made 
no attempts to conceal the depths of their disgust. ' ' The 
business of Congress this session," wrote John Adams, 
''is dulness, flatness, and insipidity itself. "^° Ames in 
his usual graphic style complained that: "Congress is 
too inefficient to afford the stuff for a letter. No pub- 
lic body exists with less energy of character to do good, 
or stronger propensities to mischief. We are French- 
men, democrats, antifeds; every thing but Americans, 
and men of business. "^^ 

These difficulties were due partly to the want of real 
organization within the party itself, and partly to the lack 
of effective legislative machinery. The financial depart- 
ment in particular was, to quote Gallatin, "quite 
vacant. "^^ Since it was perfectly obvious, even to the 
Republicans themselves, that an inactive majority could 
not' hope to retain popular confidence, the party was 
forced to bestir itself. 

With the appearance of Gallatin in the House in the 
fourth Congress, everyone looked forward to an active 
session.^^ The most pressing problem was the financial 
one. Although it had been created to act as the agent 
of the House in such matters, the Treasury department 
had come to be looked upon with suspicion, and as a good 
Republican Gallatin could not consent to a restoration 
of the former relationship. His political creed called for 
a more extensive participation in governmental affairs 
by the House of Representatives than Hamilton con- 

20 Adams, Letters to His Wife, II, 171. 

21 Ames, Works, I, 169, 

22 Adams, Gallatin, p. 157, contains Gallatin 's own very able analysis of 
the situation. 

23 Gibbs, Fed. Adm., I, 297. 


sidered either necessary or wise. In Pennsylvania Gal- 
latin had become familiar with the standing committee 
of ways and means, and he secured the appointment of 
a similar committee in the national House.^* The com- 
mittee was appointed to '^ superintend the general opera- 
tions of finance." In particular it was expected to re- 
port from time to time on the state of the public debt, and 
on revenue and expenditure.^^ Henceforth, instead of 
depending on the Secretary of the Treasury for its finan- 
cial policy, the House would look to one of its own com- 
mittees. In this way the vacancy created by the over- 
throw of the earlier agent of the House was partly filled. 

At about the same time two more standing committees 
were appointed, one on claims, and the other on com- 
merce and manufactures. The origin of the later com- 
mittee on post offices and post roads can be traced back 
to this fourth Congress, although it did not become one 
of the regular standing committees until later.-*^ 

The appointment of these standing committees, partic- 
ularly of that of ways and means, was in a way a mani- 
festation of the Republican theory of government. From 
their point of view, the members of the House, as the 
direct representatives of the voters, ought to be the main- 
spring of the whole system. Hitherto, the aristocratic 
Federalists had sold their birthright by permitting the 
executive to take a more active part in the government 
than was warranted by the Constitution. The Republi- 
cans now planned to bring about the proper balance 
between the different branches, by broadening at once 
the scope of the operations of the House, and restricting 
the executive. It was the better to enable the House to 
take its assigned part that the new type of organization 

24 Adams, Gallatin, p. 157; Gibbs, Fed. Adm., I, 443. 

25 Annals, 4 Cong. 1, 152, 159; 4 Cong. 2, 1668. 

26 Ibid., 3 Cong. 2, 877; 4 Cong. 1, 127, 143, 159; 4 Cong. 2, 1598. 


was worked out. Just as the heads of departments were 
looked upon as agents of the executive, so the committees 
would be considered as the agents of the House. Ames 
seems to have given expression to the prevalent opinion 
when he wrote that "committees already are the minis- 

This theory of House supremacy was expressed in 
another way, in 1796, when the Republicans were trying 
to abolish the mint. After some discussion there seemed 
to be an impression that a bill for that purpose would be 
defeated in the Senate, or vetoed by the president in 
case it should reach him. Giles thereupon asserted that 
the House was under no obligation to await action by the 
other factors in legislation. The representatives of the 
people could put an end to the objectionable institution 
themselves, merely by withholding appropriations." 

When the question of appropriating the amount called 
for by the Jay Treaty was laid before the House, the 
same idea was brought out even more forcibly. Accord- 
ing to the Republicans, in any matter pertaining to 
finance the decision of the House was final, and binding 
upon all other departments. Consequently the House 
had a perfect right to refuse to make the appropriations 
if it saw fit. Thus by declining to act it might prevent 
the treaty from becoming operative, even though formal 
ratification had already taken place. 

To the frightened Federalists these measures of their 
opponents could have but one object: the overthrow of 
all the other departments of the government. Ames in 
particular felt that the new policy was full of danger. 
"Such a collection of Secretaries of the Treasury," he 
wrote in 1795, * ' so ready on questions of peace, war, and 
treaty, feel a competence to every thing, and discover to 

27 Hamilton, Worlcs, VI, 201. 

28 Annals, 4 Cong. 1, 259-260. 


others an incompetence for any thing, except what, by 
the Constitution, they should be, — a popular check on the 
other branches. To prevent usurpation or encroachment 
on the rights of the people, they are inestimable ; as exec- 
utive agents, which our disorganizers contend for, they 
are so many ministers of destruction. ' '^^ Later he criti- 
cised the House because it affected 'Ho engross all the 
active and efficient powers of the other branches to them- 
selves, as our folks do. A House that will play Presi- 
dent, as we did last spring. Secretary of the Treasury, as 
we ever do, &c., &c., will play mob at last. Unless it is 
omnipotent, the members will not believe it has the means 
of self-defence. '"° John Adams wrote that: ** There are 
bold and daring strides making to demolish the Presi- 
dent, Senate, and all but the House, which, as it seems to 
me, must be the effect of the measures that many are 
urging.'"^ Likewise Goodrich expressed the belief that 
the Republicans were aiming at "a total overthrow of 
the executive systems.'"^ 

This Federalist interpretation is not wholly accurate, 
for it fails to take into account the Republican attitude 
toward the popular branch of the legislature. Far from 
trying to overthrow the Constitution, they were trying 
to reestablish it. To be sure, political intuition would 
lead them to emphasize the importance of the only branch 
of the government under their control, but at the same 
time there is no valid reason for seriously questioning 
their good faith so early. 

29 Ames, Works, I, 161. 

30 Ibid., 212-213. 

31 Adams, Letters to His Wife, II, 210. The same idea, expressed in 
almost the same words, appeared in the Columbian Centinel on April 27, 
1796. It was asserted that the aim of the majority was to "destroy the 
Executive, to usurp and engross to the House all the powers of the Presi- 
dent and Senate. ' ' 

32Gibbs, Fed. Adm., I, 337; Ames, Works, I, 212; of. Columbian Cen- 
tinel, March 24, 1798. 


If Federalist accounts are to be trusted, the new sys- 
tem inaugurated by the Eepublicans was not a success. 
Committees apparently did not fill the places left vacant 
by the secretaries. The most important of them all, the 
committee of ways and means, incurred the unlimited 
contempt of the Federalists. This new head of the 
financial system had not, so Ames believed, "written a 
page these two years. It collects the scraps and fritters 
of facts at the Treasury, draws crude hasty results tinc- 
tured with localities. These are not supported by any 
formed plan of cooperation with the members, and the 
report calls forth the pride of all the motion-makers."^' 
Moreover, there seemed to be a feeling that the com- 
mittee chairmen might become too conspicuous. They 
had special privileges in the way of access to important 
documents, and some Republicans felt that they were 
nearly as dangerous to liberty as the secretaries had 
been. This impression was responsible for much of the 
jealousy and rivalry that disturbed the party leaders.'* 

In general it may be said that the fourth Congress was 
characterized by that hesitation and general disinclina- 
tion to assume responsibility for which the Republicans 
were becoming notorious. '' 'Tis true the disorganizers 
have now the power to bring forward their systems of 
reform," wrote Goodrich, ''and that they dare not — it 
would create a responsibility which above all things they 
fear ; we think the leaders were never more discontented 
with their lot than at present."'^ 

They might have been pardoned for their failure to 
produce a general system of legislation, on the ground 
that their measures would never receive the approval of 

33 Hamilton, Works, VI, 202. 

34 Gibbs, Fed. Adm., I, 443. 

35 Ibid., I, 298 ; * ' Hence, eternal speeches, captious criticisms, and new 
projects, are found to consume all the time which ought to be devoted to 
business." Hid., p. 443. 


a hostile president. But revenues were needed, and as 
they had arrogated to themselves full control of finance, 
they might be criticised for lack of initiative in that par- 
ticular field. Instead of showing any inclination to 
formulate plans they simply drifted along and did 

The Republican failure in the House was due, not as 
at first to the lack of able leadership, because Gallatin 
and Giles were both skilled politicians, but to the absence 
of harmony and cooperation within the party itself. 
The leaders did not have the rank and file under very 
strict discipline, and the members themselves displayed 
an unseemly inability to get along with each other. Fed- 
eralist commentators dwelt upon this characteristic. 
Goodrich wrote: ''I believe there never was a public 
body deserved less the public confidence ; who were more 
ignorant, vain and incompetent, than the majority of 
the present House of Representatives. The whole ses- 
sion has been a disgraceful squabble for power, and a 
display of unworthy passions."" **The conduct of Con- 
gress is a political phenomenon," wrote Wolcott, '^over 
which I would if possible draw a veil; but it cannot be 
concealed that there has been no system, no concert, no 
pride, and no industry."^* Ames in his uncomplimen- 
tary manner wrote with reference to the same subject: 
''Much is not done or attempted, and I perceive (inter 
nos) the temper and objects of the members are marked 
with want of due reflection and concert, and indicate the 
proneness to anarchy, and the self-sufficient imbecility 
of all popular bodies. . . . '"^ Then to the former 

36 Gibbs, Fed. Adm., I, 304, 321. 

ST Ihid., I, 327; cf. Adams, Letters to His Wife, II, 220: "A few 
outlandish men in the House have taken the lead, and Madison, Giles and 
Baldwin are humble followers." 

38 Gibbs, Fed. Adm., I, 443. 

39 Ames, Worlcs, I, 212. 


Federalist chieftain he wrote: *'But the apathy and 
inefficiency of our body is no secret to you. We are gen- 
erally in a flat calm, and when we are not we are near 
sinking in a tempest. When a sovereign convention 
engrosses the whole power, it will do nothing or some 
violence that is worse. . . . "*° To another Federalist 
he sent the following: *'It is no easy matter to combine 
the anarchical opinions, even of the good men, in a popu- 
lar body. We are a mere militia. There is no leader, no 
pomt de ralliement. The motion-makers start up with 
projects of ill-considered taxes, and by presenting many 
and improper subjects, the alarm to popular feelings is 
rashly augmented."" 

When the fifth Congress was called together in extra 
session in 1797, it was evident that the Kepublicans had 
practically lost their hold on the House. Jefferson, who 
knew whereof he wrote, reported that: ''The non- 
attendance of 5. or 6. of that description, has left the 
majority very equivocal indeed. A few individuals of no 
fixed system at all, governed by the panic or prowess of 
the moment, flap as the breeze blows against the repub- 
lican or the aristocratic bodies, and give to the one or the 
other a preponderance wholly accidental."" 

From then on until the election of 1800 the Federalists 
retained control of the government, and during this 
interval, the period of the Alien and Sedition Acts and 
the Judiciary Act, the Republicans were forced back into 
the role of the minority.*^ 

40 Hamilton, Works, VI, 202. 

41 Ames, Works, I, 214. 

42 Jefferson, Works, VII, 145. 

43 While they were not very powerful, they were sometimes able to 
embarrass the majority party. Jefferson records one instance where the 
Republicans were able to carry their point by means of some rather sharp 
parliamentary practice. In 1798 some peace resolutions were introduced 
into the House. He wrote that they were offered ' ' in committee, to prevent 
their being suppressed by the previous question, & in the eommee on the 
state of the Union, to put it out of their power, by the rising of the 


Upon their return to power the Federalists at first 
made no attempt to restore the former connection be- 
tween the House and the Treasury department, or to 
break down the committee system which the Republicans 
had established. Even the committee of ways and means 
was allowed to remain, although it was a constant 
reminder of the four-year eclipse of the Federalists. 
That policy of non-interference with Republican insti- 
tutions may have been conditioned by Gallatin's influ- 
ence in the House, which was still strong enough to draw 
a complaint from Wolcott.** 

In 1800, however, by a vote of 43 to 39, the House 
reestablished the Federalist system. On May 9 a bill 
was passed, authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to 
lay before Congress at the beginning of every session a 
report on the subject of finance, "together with such 
plans for improving the revenue as may occur to him."*^ 
In good Republican fashion Gallatin and Nicholas 
opposed the measure on constitutional grounds. Since 
all money bills must originate in the House, the secretary 
had no right even to '^propose anything that should 
originate any money bill." After their defeat on that 
measure, the Republicans did little until after the elec- 
tion of Jefferson, when they had everything their own 

The striking feature of this period is the poor showing 

commee & not sitting again, to get rid of them." These resolutions, the 
"result of the united wisdom and deliberation of the opposition party," 
and the method of handling them show that the Jeffersonians were by no 
means powerless at the time. Annals, 5 Cong. 2, March 27, 1798; Jefferson, 
Works, VII, 224; Columbian Centinel, April 4, 1798. 

** Wolcott wrote that while the revenue did not fall off as he had feared 
it would, nevertheless ' ' the management of the Treasury becomes more 
and more difl&cult. The Legislature will not pass laws in gross. Their 
appropriations are minute. Gallatin, to whom they yield, is evidently 
intending to break down this department, by charging it with an imprac- 
ticable detail," Hamilton, Works, VI, 279. 

45 Annals, 6 Cong. 1, 709. 


of the Republicans. According to their theories, the 
House of Representatives ought to have been the most 
important factor in the government, but as a matter of 
actual record, it was nothing but a drag on the adminis- 
tration. This unfortunate inability to act might at first 
sight seem to have been the ordinary deadlock which 
comes when president and Congress are of different par- 
ties. A closer examination, however, shows that the Re- 
publicans gave evidence of no ability even in the field of 
opposition. They were so situated that they might have 
embarrassed the administration by sending up bills to 
be signed, as Congress is wont to do when it does not 
agree with the president, but they were in no condition 
to do that. The real cause of their trouble was lack of 
unity in their own ranks. The Republicans were per- 
meated with that intense individualism or spirit of sepa- 
ratism which made real cooperation impossible. 

Some of the Republican leaders were gradually learn- 
ing that their theories of government, good as they were, 
counted for little without the very necessary capacity 
for constructive action. Those traitors to democracy, 
the Federalists, had found the secret of success in a 
well-organized party. Could the champions of popular 
rights discover methods equally effective, and at the same 
time consistent with their loudly proclaimed principles? 
Or would they depart from the paths of political recti- 
tude, from the worship of the spirit of democracy, and 
follow after the strange gods of the Federalists, because 
those gods guaranteed results? 


^ When Jefferson was inaugurated in 1801, he might 
well have observed that a president's worst foes are 
those of his own political household. Had he not been 
an incorrigible optimist he would have been discouraged 
at the very start. During the four years when they con- 
trolled Congress his followers had conducted themselves 
in such a manner as to inspire neither pride in the past 
nor confidence in the future. His stiff-necked associates 
had not been able even to make good political capital out 
of their control of the House. Whether or not the Repub- 
licans could be made to act together long enough to put 
through the Jeffersonian reforms was an open question. 

If deliberate expression of principle counted for any- 
thing the new president could be trusted to observe the 
constitutional barriers which separated him from Con- 
gress. There would be no extra-legal interference of the 
Hamiltonian style when he was in charge. After his 
election to the vice-presidency in 1797 he explained how 
executive officials ought to conduct themselves. ''As to 
duty," he wrote, ''the constitution will allow me only as 
a member of a legislative body; and it's principle is, that 
of a separation of legislative, executive & judiciary 
functions, except in cases specified. If this principle be 
not expressed in direct terms, yet it is clearly the spirit 
of the constitution, & it ought to be so commented & 
acted on by every friend of true government."^ 

Some of the Federalists, however, were not sure that 

1 Jefferson, Works, VII, 108. 


Jefferson would obey his own dictum. John Marshall, 
for instance, prophesied that there would be a very inti- 
mate relationship between the incoming president and 
his party following in Congress. *'Mr. Jefferson," he 
wrote, ' ' appears to me to be a man who will embody him- 
self with the House of Representatives. By weakening 
the office of President, he will increase his personal 
power. He will diminish his responsibility, sap the 
fundamental principles of the government, and become 
the leader of that party which is about to constitute the 
majority of the legislature.'" 

Certainly in 1797, and perhaps in 1801, Jefferson 
would have indignantly repudiated those principles 
which, as Marshall foretold, later became the very foun- 
dation of his administration. As a philosopher and 
speculative statesman, before experience had compelled 
him to discard certain cherished ideas, he could profess 
belief in the constitutional doctrine of legislative inde- 
pendence. As the head of the government, and the leader 
of a badly organized group of politicians, however, he 
had to ignore his own interpretation of the constitution. 
The atmosphere of practical politics is not conducive to 
the long-continued existence of pure theory. 

It is not necessary to go far in order to discover why 
Jefferson's philosophy of government could not be trans- 
lated into actual practice. In the first place the funda- 
mental conceptions of his party-following made harmony 
of action almost impossible. The Eepublicans were the 
individualists of the day, men who looked askance at any 
attempt to control their opinions or their actions. Had 
they not reviled the Federalists for their base subser- 
viency to Alexander Hamilton? 

This suspicious attitude toward able leadership was 
made chronic by the role forced upon the party during 

2 Hamilton, Worlcs, VI, 501-503. 


much of the Federalist period. Originally the Republi- 
cans had been the party of opposition and protest. At 
that time habits had been formed which could not be 
easily shaken off when the party was placed in full con- 
trol of the government. Even when the Republicans 
controlled the House from 1793 to 1797, their organiza- 
tion had been far from effective, and they really accom- 
plished nothing in the way of constructive work. Jeffer- 
son's inauguration in 1801 did not bring about any 
miraculous transformation in the habits of his party, 
nor did it make his recalcitrant followers one whit more 
docile. As president his position was far from enviable. 
During both terms relations between the United States 
and the belligerent powers of Europe were always in a 
critical condition. Whatever policies he adopted were 
practically sure to meet with the unconditional condem- 
nation of the Federalists, to whom nothing that Jeffer- 
son ever did or could do seemed good. To make matters 
worse, he was constantly worried and harassed by want 
of harmony and by factional controversies within the 
ranks of the Republicans themselves. Members of his 
party found it very difficult to agree with each other or 
with their chief. 

A clear appreciation of this state of unstable equilib- 
rium is essential to any understanding of the history of 
Congress, and of its relation to the president during this 
period. Under normal conditions there probably would 
have been no such striking discrepancy between Jeffer- 
son's constitutional philosophy and his conduct as presi- 
dent. The difficulties in which he found himself involved 
as leader of his party furnish the key to the Jeffersonian 

After the transfer of Gallatin to the Treasury depart- 
ment the unenviable task of guiding the administration 
party in the House fell to William B. Giles of Virginia. 


He was not without ability as a leader, and while he was 
in attendance friction within the ranks was visibly re- 
duced. Unfortunately for the Republican organization 
in Congress, he had political aspirations in his own state 
which prevented him from spending all his time in Wash- 
ington. The Washington Federalist, not an unprejudiced 
authority to be sure, but trustworthy when supported by 
evidence from other sources, had much to say concerning 
the difficulties encountered by the new rulers in handling 
their own party associates. ''In the House of repre- 
sentatives M. Giles leads the ministerial phalanx, and is 
the only member of it whose capacity is adequate to 
the conducting measures of the party. Mr. Randolph 
attempted to lead, but failed ; . . . Mr. Giles went home 
some time ago, and in his absence many of his subalterns 
claimed the command; the consequence was they split 
and divided among themselves daily. On the return of 
Mr. Giles a grand caucus was held in the assembly room 
here, he amalgamated the party; they agreed there 
should for some days be a dumb legislation; that they 
would act but not debate. This strong proof of subor- 
dination was not refused to Mr. Giles, and nothing was 
said for two days by the ministerial party." The real 
purpose of this manoeuvre, the account continued, "was 
to muzzle some of their party who had become trouble- 

More than a month later the same paper contained 
the following: "It is believed that unless the speaker 
should add more federalists to the committees appointed 
to transact the business of Congress that they will not 
be able to adjourn or complete the necessary business 
between this and the last of October. The Chancellor of 
the Exchequer (Mr. R) has been found altogether inade- 

3 Wash. Fed., February 17, 1802. Annals, 7 Cong. 1, 666; Giles ia 
referred to here as "the premier, or prime minister of the day ..." 


quate to the discharge of his financial functions, the bill 
he introduced repealing the internal taxes was found to 
be so defective as to require an amendment of twice the 
length of the original bill. The chancellor's knowledge 
of parliamentary proceedings is not less defective, than 
his skill in fiscal concerns ; . . . Farmer Giles has now 
arrived, and will no doubt speedily resume the com- 
mand."* In a letter to the editor, in which he discussed 
the Eepublican difficulties, one Federalist wrote that 
' * The ministerialists here are in a most distressed situa- 
tion. Mr. Giles and Mr. Mason have both gone home, 
each it is said with the patriotic intention of becoming 
governor of Virginia. — Unless they speedily return, it 
is believed that the President's sect in the House of 
Representatives will be obliged to relinquish the goodly 
work of reform for want of sufficient acquaintance with 
business to mature their plans and to carry them into 
execution. ' '^ 

Jefferson himself was by no means blind to the short- 
comings of the legislature. ' ' Congress is not yet engaged 
in business of any note. We want men of business among 
them. I really wish you were here. I am convinced it is 
in the power of any man who understands business, and 
who will undertake to keep a file of the business before 
Congress and press it as he would his own docket in a 
court, to shorten the sessions a month one year with 
another and to save in that way 30,000 D. a year. An ill- 
judged modesty prevents those from undertaking it who 
are equal to it."® An interesting letter from Randolph 
to Gallatin tells the same story. *'By the way, I think 
you wise men at the seat of government have much to 
answer for in respect to the temper prevailing around 
you. By their fruit shall ye know them. Is there some- 

* Wash. Fed., March 25, 1802. 

B Ibid., March 27, 1802. 

6 Jefferson, Writings, VIII, 187. 


thing more of system yet introduced among you? or are 
you still in chaos, without form and void?'" 

Jefferson frequently reverted to the subject. With 
reference to the Louisiana purchase, he wrote De Witt 
Clinton that there was more difference of opinion in 
Congress than he had expected, and that "our leading 
friends are not yet sufficiently aware of the necessity of 
accomodation & mutual sacrifice of opinion for conduct- 
ing a numerous assembly, where the opposition too is 
drilled to act in phalanx on every question. ' '^ In another 
letter to Eodney he expressed regret at his proposed 
retirement. "I had looked to you as one of those calcu- 
lated to give cohesion to our rope of sand. You now see 
the composition of our public bodies, and how essential 
system and plan are for conducting our affairs wisely 
with so bitter a party in opposition to us. ... ' '® 

In January, 1805, referring to a letter from Gallatin 
in which he seems to have complained about the same 
difficulties, Dallas wrote, ' ' It is obvious to me that unless 
our Administration take decisive measures to discounte- 
nance the factious spirit that has appeared, unless some 
principle of political cohesion can be introduced into our 
public councils as well as at our elections, and unless men 
of character and talents can be drawn . . . into the legis- 
lative bodies of our government . . . the empire of 
Republicanism will moulder into anarchy, and the labor 
and hope of our lives will terminate in disappointment 
and wretchedness."" 

In 1806 one of the most famous of Jefferson's floor 
leaders broke with the administration. If the uncompli- 
mentary remarks of the Washington Federalist were 
deserved in 1802, they were not in 1805, for by that time 

7 Adams, Gallatin, p. 317. 

8 Jeflferson, Writings, VIII, 282-283. 

9 Ibid., 296. 

10 Adams, Gallatin, p. 327. 


Randolph had become one of the mainstays of the party." 
Yet the very fact that he was so powerful was an element 
of weakness in the party itself. While they respected 
his talents as a general, his associates hated him for his 
overbearing manner and his caustic tongue. Yet men 
followed him and 'Woted as was right," as Jefferson 
naively put it, as long as he supported the administra- 
tion.^^ But Randolph was by nature a man of the oppo- 
sition, so that when his own party was in the ascendant 
he was driven to take the other side. In 1820 Randolph 
himself analyzed his own eccentric character for the 
benefit of his colleagues in Congress, and the abstract of 
his remarks is well worth quoting. He had served in 
Congress almost twenty years, he said, *' nearly four- 
teen of which — just double the time . . . that Jacob 
served for Rachel, had been spent in opposition to what 
is called government," for he ''commenced his political 
apprenticeship in the ranks of opposition; . . . and 
could he add fourteen more to them, he supposed some 
political Laban would double his servitude, and condemn 
him to toil in the barren field of opposition: for he 
despaired of seeing any man elected president whose 
conduct he should entirely approve — he should never be 
in favor at court, as he had, somehow, as great an alac- 
rity at getting into a minority as honest Jack Falstaff 
had at sinking. It was, perhaps, the place he was best 
fitted for . . . as he had not strength to encounter the 
details and drudgery of business ; habit had rendered it 
familiar to him; and after all, it was not without its 
sweets as well as its bitters since it involved the glorious 
privilege of finding fault — one very dear to the depraved 

11 Adams, Gallatin, p. 363, Gallatin to his wife : ' ' Varnum has, much 
against my wishes, removed Eandolph from the Ways and Means and 
appointed Campbell, of Tennessee. It was improper as related to the public 
business, and will give me additional labor. ' ' 

12 Jefferson, Writings, VIII, 447-450. 


condition of poor human nature.'"^ It seems strange 
that Jefferson should have trusted such a leader, who 
could be depended upon for nothing except perhaps to 
fly off on some tangent at a very inopportune time. 
There is evidence that as early as 1804 he was discon- 
tented with his position. He wrote Grallatin, partly in 
jest perhaps, that he had been ''pestered" with inquiries 
about public affairs. He found it impossible to answer 
them, and he expressed considerable satisfaction when 
he learned that the "Chancellor of the Exchequer and 
First Lord of the Treasury" was equally unable. Then 
the letter continued : " In short, I like originality too well 
to be a second-hand politician when I can help it. It is 
enough to live upon the broken victuals and be tricked 
out in the cast-off finery of you first-rate statesmen all 
the winter.^* 

The immediate occasion of his fall from grace was a 
combination of the Yazoo land business and Jefferson's 
attempt to force through an appropriation for the pur- 
chase of Florida.^^ In the Florida affair Eandolph as 
chairman of the committee of ways and means was 
expected to move the appropriation of the necessary two 
million dollars for the purchase. He refused to act, and 
finally the government measures were carried in spite 
of the refractory chairman. This attempt to deprive 
him of his position as House leader so exasperated 
Randolph that, greatly to the delight of the Federalists, 
he turned his fiery denunciations against his former 

The fact that his defection did not disrupt the party 
speaks well for the political skill of the president and 

13 Annals, 16 Cong. 1, 1465, 

14 Adams, Gallatin, p. 324. 

15 For a full account of these matters see Adams, Gallatin, pp. 328-329, 

18 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, I, 418, 


Ms Secretary of the Treasury. Jefferson took pains to 
assure Ms friends that Randolph's action really left the 
party stronger than it had been before.^'' 

A year after this episode Jefferson found it necessary 
to procure a new leader for the House. In February, 
1807, he wrote to Wilson Cary Nicholas: "Mr. T. M. 
Randolph is, I believe, determined to retire from Con- 
gress, and it is strongly his wish, & that of all here, that 
you should take his place. Never did the calls of patriot- 
ism more loudly assail you than at this moment. After 
excepting the federalists, who will be 27., and the little 
band of schismatics, who will be 3. or 4. (all tongue), 
the residue or the H of R is as well disposed a body of 
men as I ever saw collected. But there is no one whose 
talents & standing, taken together, have weight enough 
to give him the lead. The consequence is, that there is 
no one who will undertake to do the public business, and 
it remains undone. Were you here, the whole would 
rally round you in an instant, and willingly co-operate in 
whatever is for the public good. Nor would it require 
you to undertake the drudgery in the House. There are 
enough, able & willing to do that. A rallying point is 
all that is wanting. Let me beseech you then to offer 
yourself. You never will have it so much in your power 
again to render such eminent service."^® This letter 
hardly harmonizes with the president's earlier views 
regarding the relation between executive and legislature. 

The material quoted above explains why Jefferson, the 
great champion of democracy, has the reputation of being 
an autocrat in his dealings with Congress. All his work 
was done amidst forces of disruption that constantly 
threatened his plans with failure. Under such conditions 
he was confronted with the bitter choice of permitting 

17 Jefferson, Writings, VIII, 428, 434, 441, 447-450. 

18 Hid., IX, 32. 


internal weaknesses to wreck his party, or of throwing 
away his theories and taking full charge of the manage- 
ment of the legislature. No good politician could con- 
sider the first alternative, and Jefferson was nothing if 
not a good politician. Naturally he chose the second. 
He and Gallatin had guided the party before 1801, and 
Hamilton's success showed conclusively that Congress 
could if necessary be led from outside. 

And yet, just as surely as executive officials undertook 
to manage legislation, there would be immediate and 
forceful protests. The dilemma was clearly perceived 
by Jefferson. ''Our situation is difficult;" he wrote to 
William Duane in 1806, "& whatever we do is liable to 
the criticisms of those who wish to represent it awry. If 
we recommend measures in a public message, it may be 
said that members are not sent here to obey the mandates 
of the President, or to register the edicts of a sovereign. 
If we express opinions in conversation, we have then our 
Charles Jenkinsons, & back-door counsellors. If we say 
nothing, 'we have no opinions, no plans, no cabinet.' In 
truth it is the fable of the old man, his son & ass, over 
again. ' "® 

The president had learned, if his followers had not, 
that the Republicans had made a mistake in criticising 
so vigorously the Federalist organization constructed by 
Hamilton. It took very little experience as head of the 
administration to convince the more clear-headed Repub- 
licans that their opponents had hit upon the only prac- 
tical plan of actual government. The constitutional 
separation of executive and legislature would not work 
in everyday practice, and the very logic of facts drove 
the Jeffersonians into the paths blazed by their "aristo- 
cratic" opponents. 

The comprehensive scope of Jefferson's activity as 

19 Jefferson, Writings, VIII, 431-433. 


president was well described by the two senators from 
Massachusetts. John Quincy Adams wrote concerning 
the proposed Florida purchase: ''The measure has been 
very reluctantly adopted by the President's friends, on 
his private wishes signified to them, in strong contradic- 
tion to the tenor of all his public messages. His whole 
system of administration seems founded upon this prin- 
ciple of carrying through the legislature measures by his 
personal or official influence. There is a certain pro- 
portion of the members in both Houses who on every 
occasion of emergency have no other enquiry but what is 
the President's wish. These, of course, always vote 
accordingly. Another part adhere to him in their votes, 
though strongly disapproving the measures for which 
they vote. A third float in uncertainty ; now supporting 
one side of a question and now supporting the other, and 
eventually slinking away from the record of their votes. 
A fourth have the spirit even to vote against the will of 
their leader. . . . This is, however, one of those tempo- 
rizing experients the success of which is very doubtful. 
If a really trying time should ever befall this adminis- 
tration, it would very soon be deserted by all its troops, 
and by most of its principal agents. Even now they 
totter at every blast. ' '-" Senator Pickering wrote in the 
same way at about the same time. He reported that 
Jefferson tried ''to screen himself from all responsibil- 
ity, by calling upon Congress for advice and direction. 
. . . Yet with all this affected modesty and deference, he 
secretly dictates every measure which is seriously pro- 
posed and supported; and there are creatures mean 
enough to suggest, from time to time, that such is the 
President's wish!"^^ 

These statements, made by men whose testimony is 

20 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, I, 403, February 7, 1806. 

21 Pickering MSS., XXXVIII, 102^e, February 2, ]806. 


to be trusted, because it is supported by enough corrob- 
orative evidence, hardly harmonize with Jefferson's 
own theory of government, but they do show that the 
' ' Sage of Monticello ' ' was an eminently practical man. 

It is evident that both in methods and in effectiveness 
the Republican legislative machine differed little from 
that evolved by the severely criticised Federalists. The 
president and his Secretary of the Treasury were re- 
sponsible for the main outlines, and in some cases for 
the details as well, of party measures. Policies were 
evolved, programs laid before Congress, and bills passed, 1 

all under the watchful eye of the chief executive. Jeffer- 
son was so successful that he was called a tyrant, but 
his methods were more like those of the Tudor kings 
than of the Italian despots. Everything that he did had 
to be done through Congress. Congress to be sure was 
usually ready to follow Jefferson's lead, but the com- 
pliance of that body was due to nothing else than the 
constant and never ending vigilance of Jefferson and 

In one important particular Jefferson improved upon 
Federalist legislative methods. Hamilton had his fol- 
lowers in Congress, and there was usually some one 
leader of prominence in charge of the party forces, but 
this floor leader was not looked upon as the personal 
representative of the president himself. He was rather 
an assistant to the Speaker. From 1801 to 1808 the floor 
leader was distinctly the lieutenant of the executive. 
William B. Giles, who was actually referred to as ''the 
premier, or prime minister," Caesar A. Rodney, John 
Randolph of Roanoke, and Wilson Cary Nicholas all held 
that honorable position at one time or another. It was 
their duty to look after party interests in the House, and 
in particular to carry out the commands of the president. 
The status of these men was different from that of the 


floor leader of to-day, who is given his position because 
of long service in the House. They were presidential 
agents, appointed by the executive, and dismissed at his 
pleasure. The letters to Rodney and Nicholas, quoted 
above, show that in at least two cases Jefferson actually 
urged men to run for Congress in order to act as his lieu- 
tenants. When Randolph refused to comply with the 
president's wishes in the Florida affair, he was reduced 
to the ranks and Nicholson took charge, until Jefferson 
could persuade Nicholas to enter Congress. 

In view of these facts, it is not surprising that Macon 
and Varnum, the two Speakers during this period, should 
have left such indistinct traces in the records of Con- 
gress. To be sure they were chosen by their party asso- 
ciates in the House, but they were never given authority 
over them. Leadership was neither the prerogative of 
seniority nor a privilege conferred by the House ; it was 
distinctly the gift of the president. It might be added 
that in just what section of the Constitution he found 
his sanction for such a practice the prince of strict con- 
structionists never told. 

Jefferson made it evident that his interest in Con- 
gress did not cease with the appointment of a floor leader. 
On the contrary conferences with his agents were fully as 
important as cabinet meetings themselves. Personal 
work with the leaders was in some cases the only way of 
securing favorable action on his policies. In 1804, when 
Congress was at work on the Louisiana government bill, 
the leaders planned to put the system into operation at 
the close of the session. Jefferson wanted to make Mon- 
roe governor of the territory, but the latter could not 
return from France in time to begin his work so soon. 
Jefferson therefore did not want the bill to go into imme- 
diate effect, and in * * private conversations demonstrated 
to individuals that that is impossible ; that the necessary 


officers cannot be mustered there under 6 months."" 
That was a case where he could not safely trust to his 
floor leader. Later Jefferson referred to his frequent 
communications with Randolph and Nicholson as matters 
of course.^^ 

If the Washington Federalist is to be trusted, meas- 
ures that did not receive the sanction of the president 
met with vigorous opposition in Congress.^* Jefferson's 
influence it seems worked both ways. 

The passing of the Embargo is usually taken as the 
crowning instance of Jefferson's power in Congress, 
although very little has come to light in connection with 
it which would illustrate his methods of dealing with 
that body. Pickering to be sure bitterly complained that 
Jefferson ^Hs the government/' but that was his usual 
complaint anyway. When the Embargo message was 
laid before the Senate, Pickering wrote that ''it was 
manifest that the minds of his special agents and of a 
decided majority were previously prepared."^'' 

Perhaps his proposed plan for the purchase of Florida 
affords the best example of his success in driving through 
a favorite policy in spite of the determined hostility of 
some of his own followers. After making up his mind 

22 Jefferson, Writings, VIII, 288. 

23 Ibid., 468-472. Eeferring to Eandolph 's philippics against the admin- 
istration, Jefferson wrote: "He speaks of secret communications between 
the executive and members, of backstairs' influence &c, But he never 
spoke of this while he and Mr. Nicholson enjoyed it almost solely. But 
when he differed from the executive in a leading measure, & the executive, 
not submitting to him, expressed it's sentiments to others, (to wit, the 
purchase of Florida) which he acknoleges they expressed to him, then he 
roars out upon backstairs influence. ' ' Of all men in the Eepublican party 
Jefferson should have been the last to attempt to remove the mote of 
inconsistency from Eandolph 's eye. 

2* Wash. Fed., February 17, 1804. During a debate on a proposal to 
authorize the building of two small vessels for the navy, Nicholson came 
out in favor of the measure, but John Eandolph argued that "Congress 
ought not to adopt the measure, because no intimation of its propriety had 
been given by the President." 

25 Pickering MSS. XXXVIII, 121-124. 


that troublesome questions in the southeast might be 
solved by buying the territory, he began his campaign. 
In the first place, he frightened the country by sending to 
Congress a veritable war message, stating that American 
citizens had been subjected to injury in the Spanish pos- 
sessions. ''Some of these injuries," so the message ran, 
''may perhaps admit a peaceable remedy. Where that 
is competent it is always the most desirable. But some 
of them are of a nature to be met by force only, and all 
of them may lead to it. I can not, therefore, but recom- 
mend such preparations as circumstances call for. ' "® In 
a private message, however, he recommended a settlement 
similar to the Louisiana purchase. "Formal war is not 
necessary — ^it is not probable that it will follow ; " so ran 
the second message, "but the protection of our citizens, 
the spirit and honor of our country require that force 
should be interposed to a certain degree. . . . But the 
course to be pursued will require the command of means 
which it belongs to Congress exclusively to yield or to 
deny."" It was planned to have Congress adopt public 
resolutions, in harmony with the spirit of the first mes- 
sage, which were drafted by Jefferson himself,^^ after 
which the necessary appropriation would be made. Ran- 
dolph, the chairman of the committee of ways and means, 
refused to act, but under the leadership of Nicholson 
Congress finally acceded to Jefferson's wishes.^'' 

In this connection Pickering asserted that Jefferson 
originally planned to purchase the territory first, and 
then trust to Congress to sanction the proceedings. Al- 
though the project was discussed at a cabinet meeting, 

26 Eichardson, Messages, I, 384-385. 

27 lUd., 390, 

28 Adams, Gallatin, p. 337; Gallatin, Writings, I, 277, 281. 

29 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, I, 403, ' ' The measure has been very reluc- 
tantly adopted by the President's friends, on his private wishes signified 
to them, in strong contradiction to the tenor of all his public messages." 


the Eepublican leaders did not have the courage to fol- 
low the initial impulse.^" 

In some cases Jefferson took charge of drafting bills, 
which were subsequently laid before Congress. In 1804 
the cabinet held a meeting to discuss what action should 
be taken with reference to the insults to which American 
vessels were subjected by foreign men-of-war. The 
conclusions of the cabinet were put in the form of a bill, 
which the president planned to give to Randolph. Con- 
gress, however, had already referred the subject to a se- 
lect committee, so the bill was sent directly to a member 
of that committee.^^ Again in December, 1805, Jefferson 
drafted two bills, one for establishing a naval militia, and 
the other for classifying the militia.^^ The classification 
bill was adversely reported on by the committee, but 
after conversing with individual members Jefferson felt 
that the bill would pass. "I had rather have that classi- 
fication established," he wrote, ''than any number of 
regulars which could be voted at this time.'"^ 

Mr. Henry Adams refers to the government during 
the eight years of the Jeffersonian regime as a triumvir- 
ate, with the president and the Secretaries of State and 
of the Treasury as the real rulers.^* This was true as far 
as the general policy of the government was concerned, 
but in the actual processes of legislation Madison had no 
concern. He had never shown great skill as a parlia- 
mentarian, either in the House of Burgesses or in the 
House of Representatives, and his letters are almost de- 

30 Pickering MSS. XIV, 155i-f, "there was at least a consultation (if 
not a direct proposition from the President) to take the two millions to 
remit to Paris, and depend on the willingness of Congress, when it should 
meet, to sanction the act: but they were not quite hardy enough to take 
this unwarrantable step. ' ' 

31 Jefferson, Works, VIII, 333-336. 

32 Ibid., 403-412. 

33 Ibid., 415-416. 

34 Adams, Gallatin, p. 269. 


void of references to procedure, either formal or infor- 
mal. He was the statesman of the triumvirate, not its 
Congressional director. 

Gallatin on the other hand associated himself with 
Jefferson in the actual management of important legis- 
lative proceedings, and his previous experience in the 
House enabled him to render valuable service. Just as 
Francis' hotel had been the rendezvous of the Republi- 
can leaders during Adams' administration,^^ so Galla- 
tin's house became the recognized headquarters of the 
party chieftains in later years. Macon, the Speaker, 
Randolph, the floor leader, Nicholson, Nicholas, Baldwin, 
and others almost equally prominent in the councils of 
the party were constantly there. Adams states that 
hardly a trace of these conversations was recorded, so 
there is no evidence to throw light on these most impor- 
tant party gatherings.^^ Gallatin himself wrote that he 
had been very free in his dealings with prominent mem- 
bers of the legislature, and it is evident that he kept a 
close watch over all proceedings in Congress.^^ If there 
was no one in that body ready to look after party inter- 
ests, Gallatin was able to interfere personally, and in at 
least two instances he prevented the passing of unde- 
sirable bills. He wrote Jefferson that the chairman of a 
certain committee had reported two bills, one to alter 
the form of government of Michigan, "on principles so 
opposed to those of our political institutions that I am at 

35 ' ' South Carolina Federalists, ' ' Am. Eist. Eev., XIV, 787, ' ' Jefferson 
lodges at Francis's hotel with a knot of Jacobins ..." 

3« Adams, Gallatin, p. 302. 

ZT Ihid., p. 346, October 13, 1806, Gallatin to Jefferson: "If . . . there 
be any who believe that in my long and confidential intercourse with Repub- 
lican members of Congress, that particularly in my free communication of 
facts and opinions to Mr. Randolph, I have gone beyond what prudence 
might have suggested, the occasion necessarily required, or my official situa- 
tion strictly permitted," they would naturally criticise freely. 


a loss to guess how it could pass the House without ani- 
madversion. ' ' The other proposed to give the governor 
and judges authority to decide all land claims in the terri- 
tory. ''Both passed the House; Nicholson had resigned; 
Randolph attending to other objects; no man yet con- 
sidering himself as obliged to watch over every proceed- 
ing; in fact, nobody had attended to the business. I 
found it necessary to interfere by speaking to members 
of the Senate, and succeeded in having the government 
bill postponed sine die, and the general principles of 
the land bill rejected.'"^ As was the case with Hamilton, 
Gallatin must have found that his official duties were 
not the only matters to which he had to give his atten- 
tion. The "course of legislative manoeuvres" was like- 
wise a matter of concern to Jefferson's Secretary of the 

As a matter of fact, an outline of Gallatin's work as 
Secretary of the Treasury and first assistant in Congres- 
sional business shows that Hamiltonian precedents were 
generally followed. In the first place the hitherto uncon- 
stitutional practice of reference was revived by the Re- 
publicans. On February 21, 1803, a resolution was intro- 
duced by a Republican member, to the effect that the 
Secretary of the Treasury be directed to prepare and sub- 
mit to Congress early in the next session a plan for lay- 
ing ''new and more specific duties" on imports, so that 
' ' the same shall, as near as may be, neither increase nor 
diminish the present revenue arising to the United States 
from imports. ' '^^ On March 3, the secretary was directed 
to prepare and lay before Congress at the next session 
a digest of laws relating to duties on imports and ton- 
nage, together with recommendations regarding such 

38 Gallatin, Writings, 1, 322, November 25, 1806. It was in the follow- 
ing February that Jefferson wrote to Nicholas, urging him to take command 
of Congress. 

S9 Annals, 7 Cong. 2, 567-568. 


changes as might be necessary.*" The mere fact that 
their first accession to power had been used primarily 
for the purpose of breaking up a connection of almost 
identically the same kind did not weigh heavily on the 
Republican conscience. Hamilton was secretary in 1794, 
while Gallatin held the position in 1803. Evidently leg- 
islative methods were neither corrupt nor unconstitu- 
tional in themselves. It was only their employment by 
the ''aristocrats" that made them dangerous. More- 
over the specially appointed guardians of popular rights 
are of course freed from the rules that bind ordinary 
men. What matter if the Republicans did take over the 
whole legislative system of the Federalists, which they 
had formerly condemned and annihilated? The chosen 
representatives of the sovereign people could do no 

Moreover the secretary attended committee meetings, 
after the manner of his predecessor." Then he certainly 
complained, and evidently protested vigorously when 
Randolph was removed from the chairmanship of the 
committee of ways and means.*" Besides attending com- 
mittee meetings and attempting to interfere in the choice 
of chairmen, Gallatin drafted at least one report for the 
committee of foreign relations, which Campbell, the 
chairman of the committee, presented to the House.*^ 
There was no Maclay to record in detail the practices of 
the Republican secretary, but what evidence there is 
indicates that in managing the legislature he was just 
as active and as successful as Hamilton had been before 

During this period of Republican supremacy the most 

40 Annals, 7 Cong. 2, 644. 

41 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, I, 447. 

42 Adams, Gallatin, p. 363. 

43 /bid., p. 378; Gallatin, Writings, I, 435-446. 


noteworthy institution in Congress was not the standing 
committee, although its importance was steadily grow- 
ing, nor yet the speakership, but the extra-constitutional 
party organization called the caucus. Through the cau- 
cus the jarring, discordant elements of the party were 
reconciled and made to work together, so that concerted 
policies and harmonious action were no longer the exclu- 
sive possessions of the Federalists. Inasmuch as consti- 
tutional restrictions did not operate in the realm of party 
machinery, president, cabinet, and legislature could all 
come together on equal terms in the stronghold of a 
secret meeting. The artificial barriers of a written con- 
stitution prevented a perfectly frank and open connec- 
tion between the branches of government, and forced 
into existence instead an illegitimate union with all its 
attendant evils. To the politician of course the scheme 
seemed good, because it made possible the necessary co- 
operation, while at the same time it effectually concealed 
individual responsibility. 

The device itself, well known in the colonies, had been 
brought into Congress, as early as 1790, during the 
period of Hamilton's supremacy. By 1797 the Senate 
was so familiar with it that committee membership was 
determined in secret party session.** Jefferson is 
authority for the statement that ''during the XYZ Con- 
gress, the Federal members held the largest caucus they 
ever had, . . . and the question was proposed and de- 
bated, whether they should declare war against France, 
and determined in the negative. ' ' He also reported that 

44 "South Carolina Federalists," Am. Hist. Bev., XIV, 789, May 29, 
1797. The Senate distributed the parts of the President's speech to 
several committees ; " by a previous arrangement, they have left out of 
the commtees, every one of the minority to shew them that they have no 
confidence in them and are afraid to trust them at this crisis: there is not 
a man of the minority on any one committee. ' ' 


in that caucus only five more votes were needed to bring 
about a declaration of war."^ 

Perhaps the most noteworthy of all Federalist cau- 
cuses were those held in 1801, during the exciting contest 
for the presidency. Bayard, who assumed the lead after 
the deadlock became serious, decided to vote for Jeffer- 
son instead of Burr. He called a caucus, and informed 
his colleagues of his determination. After the first out- 
burst of indignation they seemed inclined to *'acquiese," 
and another caucus was arranged for, ** merely to agree 
upon the mode of surrendering."*® After the election 
was over Bayard wrote a vivid account of the whole pro- 
ceeding to Hamilton. *'In the origin of the business I 
had contrived to lay hold of all the doubtful votes in the 
House, which enabled me, according to views which pre- 
sented themselves, to protract or terminate the contro- 

''This arrangement was easily made. . . . When the 
experiment was fully made, and acknowledged upon all 
hands to have completely ascertained that Burr was 
resolved not to commit himself,*^ and that nothing re- 
mained but to appoint a President by law, or leave the 
government without one, I came out with the most ex- 
plicit and determined declaration of voting for Jeffer- 
son. You cannot well imagine the clamor and vehement 
invectives to which I was subjected for some days. We 
had several caucuses. All acknowledged that nothing 
but desperate measures remained, which several were 
disposed to adopt, and but few were willing openly to 
disapprove. We broke up each time in confusion and 

45 Jefferson, Anas, January 10, 13, 1800. These reports came to Jeffer- 
son in rather roundabout fashion. 

46 Bayard Papers, A. H. A. Beport, 1913, II, 127, 

47 In a letter written during the controversy itself. Bayard wrote that 
Burr ' ' was determined to come in as a Democrat. ..." Bayard Papers, 


discord, and the manner of the last ballot was arranged 
but a few minutes before the ballot was given. Our 
former harmony, however, has since been restored."*^ 
Maclay had been inclined to speak critically of this 
device of the Federalists, but once in power the Repub- 
licans unblushingly adopted it along with whatever else 
in the Federalist system seemed worth taking. Just how 
early the Republicans began to follow Federalist prece- 
dent in this respect is not known definitely. Mr. Henry 
Adams states that during the six years of Gallatin's 
career in Congress there were only two *' meetings of his 
party associates in Congress called to deliberate on their 
political action." These two occasions were in 1796, 
during the debate on the Jay Treaty, and in 1798, during 
the discussion of the attitude of the French Directory." 
This would indicate that the caucus was not regularly 
used by the Jeffersonians. The party, however, was more 
familiar with that bit of legislative machinery than Mr. 
Adams' statement implies, and there were certainly 
other Republican caucuses during that period. As a 
matter of fact the leaders of the party lived at the same 
hotel, so they might he said to have been in informal 

48 Hamilton, WorJcs, VI, 523. 

This custom of settling important questions in caucus was continued 
by the Federalists after the election of 1800. Eegarding the repeal of 
the Judiciary Act, Bayard wrote Hamilton that there would be a meeting 
"to concert an uniform plan of acting or acquiescing before Congress 
adjourns. ..." IMd., 539. See also Gibbs, Fed. Adm., I, 331, Goodrich 
wrote that the Federalists had decided to "risque the consequences of 
delay, and prolong the debates," in the hope that some pressure might be 
brought to bear on the representatives by their constituents. 

49 Adams, Gallatin, p, 214. Caucuses were held on those occasions. 
Goodrich hints at united action on the part of the opposition at that time, 
and implies that Republican action was the outcome of preconcert. Gibbs, 
Fed. Adm., I, 331, 335. With reference to the threatened war with France, 
Jefferson reports the device adopted by the Eepublicans to get their 
resolutions before the House. The resolutions were referred to by a 
Federalist paper as the "result of the united wisdom and deliberation of 
the opposition party." Jefferson, Writings, VII, 224; Col. Cent., April 4, 


caucus most of the time.^" It was reported in 1796 that 
the Republicans held a caucus to decide on a candidate 
for the vice-presidency.^^ In, 1799 the Columbian Centi- 
nel printed the following: "Among the extraordinaries 
of the day, may be ranked the caucussing of the Jacobins 
at Philadelphia, in favor of Mr. Rutledge, of South- 
Carolina, as Speaker, in opposition to Mr. Sedgwick, 
because the latter is a northern man."^- Then, while the 
Federalists were holding their caucuses during the elec- 
tion of 1800, their opponents were busy in the same 

The Republicans certainly became familiar with the 
caucus before the election of 1800, and from the seventh 
Congress on they made regular use of it. The Federalist 
newspapers of 1802 were constantly referring to Repub- 
lican caucuses. ''The Democrats in Congress," ran an 
item in the Washington Federalist, "are adopting of late 
quite an economical plan of making laws. — All business 
is to be settled in caucuses before it comes before the 
House ; and the arguments or motives be given in news- 
papers afterwards. The federal members are to be 
treated as nullities. ' '^* The same paper charged that the 
decision regarding important bills was not made in the 
House, but in the caucus.^^ Bayard, a Federalist, speak- 
ing during the debate on the repeal of the act establish- 
ing the district courts, referred to the caucus, and was 
called to order for so doing. That was in 1802, and was 

50 ' ' South Carolina Federalists, ' ' Am. Hist. Eev., XIV, 787. 

51 Ibid., 780. 

52 Col. Cent., December 7, 1799. 

^3 Wash. Fed., February 10, 1801; "It is said a Jeffersonian Caucus 
met last Friday evening. For special reasons, the meeting was not held 
in Washington but in Georgetown. — The Democratic Eepresentatives in 
Congress, with their Genevan Director and his Subalterns, were generally 
present. ' ' 

5ilhid., February 6, 1802. 

65 Ibid., January 28, 1802. 


apparently the first mention of the institution in the 
House.'^ It was charged that at these meetings either 
Jefferson or Duane always presided." 

The following breezy account is a good example of 
Federalist comment on Eepublican affairs. ''At a cau- 
cus held in the dancing assembly room, back of Stiles' 
boarding house, New Jersey Avenue, on the night follow- 
ing the 20th of January, in the year of grace 1802, but the 
1st of pure democracy. 

Johnny Randolph in the chair. 

Mr. Elmendolph moved that there be a Secretary, and 
nominated himself for the appointment." "Chairman. 
Gentlemen, fellow servants of the people, our last caucus, 
in which was determined the bill, for the diminution of 
the army, was advanced to this night, to decide on the 
bill for a naval armament against Tripoli ; and the ques- 
tion is, shall it pass without amendments— and without 
debate too, said Mr. Davis of Kentucky, with a sneer, and 
putting on his hat, withdrew. This roused Mr. Claiborne, 
who, flourishing his hand, holding his hat and stick, said, 
Mr. Chairman, I am sorry that we agreed in our last 
caucus to pass the Military bill, without saying anything 
against it ; citizen Davis is very angry, and I myself think 
it will never do ; we ought to be allowed to make speeches 
against expense, all kinds of expense, no matter how we 
vote, let our speeches be printed, and we can tell our 
constituents the federalists carried the vote . . . and I 
understood we had agreed so, for most of our side, talk 
one side and vote t'other . . . here the caucus was inter- 
rupted by the entrance of the attorney general, who de- 
clared . . . that their great coats should suspend them- 
selves before the windows, to prevent the prying eyes of 
aristocracy from telling who were assembled; this was 

58 Annals, 7 Cong. 1, 480. 

57 Wash. Fed., February 21, 1802. 


immediately done, but one window remaining unveiled, 
after all the great coats were applied; John Smith of 
New York proposed, that Col. Varnum should stand with 
his face to that, which, from its broad shape and sable 
hue, he believed would interrupt vision as well as a great 
coat; but to avoid accident, he moved that Mr. Jones of 
Philadelphia and Dr. Archer of Maryland should back 
him. "^® 

Perhaps the best description of the caucus as the real 
legislature is that in the speech of Josiah Quincy, the 
radical Federalist from Massachusetts. ''But, sir," he 
said in speaking of the bill for the extra session of Con- 
gress, ''with respect to this House, I confess I know not 
how to express my opinion. To my mind, it is a political 
non-descript. It acts, and reasons, and votes, and per- 
forms all the operations of an animated being, and yet, 
judging from my own perceptions, I cannot refrain from 
concluding that all great political questions are settled 
somewhere else than on this floor. ' ' The Speaker called 
him to order, and Quincy went on: "If the Speaker 
means that I have not a right to state facts, and leave the 
people to make reflections upon them, I must appeal from 
his decision. ' ' Quincy then proceeded to state facts which 
proved his assertion. "The fact to which I allude hap- 
pened on the day when the enforcing embargo law was 
passed. On that day, before the House was called into 
a Committee of the Whole upon the bill, I was informed 
that it had been resolved somewhere, I know not where, 
nor by whom, that the House should be called into Com- 
mittee of the Whole immediately upon that bill — that it 
was to be passed in one day through all the remaining 
stages — that the bill was then actually engrossed, or 
engrossing, and that after it was so passed, a bill was to 
be proposed and passed for calling an extraordinary ses- 

58 Wash. Fed., January 23, 1802. 


sion of Congress in May next. This was stated to me, 
previous to the going into Committee of the Whole on 
the enforcing embargo bill, as the course settled. Well — 
what happened? Why, agreeably to the information I 
had received, we were immediately called into a Com- 
mittee of the Whole, on the bill. We did pass it, through 
all the remaining stages at one session, notwithstanding 
the multitude of its provisions, the greatness of the prin- 
ciple and consequences it involved. So far my previous 
information proved correct. It will also be recollected 
that in the course of the nocturnal session on that bill, 
the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Smilie) did state 
it as his intention to bring forward a bill for a meeting 
of Congress in May, and accordingly, the next day he 
introduced the motion, which was the foundation of the 
present bill. Thus again my previous information was 
proved by the event accurate. ' '^'^ 

Several Republicans spoke in reply, not to contradict, 
because contradiction of known facts is somewhat diffi- 
cult, but to explain why they transacted business in that 
way. One Williams, for instance, argued that the tactics 
of the Federalists forced such a course upon the major- 
ity. ''Gentlemen in the minority all went to dinner, 
leaving one gentleman behind them to call for the yeas 
and nays and make motions till they came back. . . . 
When that course of proceeding was adopted, there was 
a kind of instantaneous determination of the majority 
of the House to take the question. "^° Instantaneous 
determinations must have come frequently, and they 
struck the majority with a most curious uniformity. 

Some of the Federalists, such as Quincy and Pickering, 
were extremely bitter in their denunciation of this 
method, first introduced by their friends, and then used 

59 Annals, 10 Cong, 2, 1143. 
^oibid., 1147. 


so effectively by their opponents. Pickering was so 
wrought up that he advocated secession. ''And must 
we, with folded hands, wait the result? or timely think 
of other protection? This is a delicate subject. The 
principles of our revolution point to the remedy — a sepa- 
ration. That this can be accomplished, and without spill- 
ing one drop of blood, I have little doubt. One thing I 
know, that the rapid progress of innovation, of corrup- 
tion, force the idea upon many a reflecting mind. Indeed 
we are not uneasy because 'unplaced': But we look with 
dread on the ultimate issue; an issue not remote, unless 
some new and extraordinary obstacle be opposed, and 
that speedily. For paper constitutions are become as 
clay in the hands of the potter. The people of the East 
cannot reconcile their habits, views, and interests with 
those of the South and West. The latter are beginning 
to rule with a rod of iron. When not convenient to vio- 
late the Constitution, it must be altered; and it will be 
made to assume any shape as an instrument to crush the 
federalists. "«' 

If more democracy was injected into American govern- 
ment by Jefferson and his followers, that fact could never 
be deduced from the records of Congress. The House of 
Representatives was just as much dependent upon the 
executive as it had been at the height of Hamilton's 
career. On the other hand there is evidence of develop- 
ment in the opposite direction. In his eminently success- 
ful attempt to overcome friction within Republican ranks, 
Jefferson had really built up a highly centralized system. 
The party following was drilled to act together in cau- 
cus, where the individual member was induced to relin- 
quish his cherished privilege of blocking the wheels of 
action. But the caucus was only the rehearsal, so to 

61 Pickering MSS. XIV, 93, January 29, 1804; cf. ibid., 106, and J. Q. 
Adams, Memoirs, I, 465. 


speak, and there was always the possibility that in the 
regular performance in Congress some unruly Eepub- 
lican might cast off party trammels and vote as he 
pleased. To guard against such a contingency Jefferson 
made it a practice to keep a recognized leader in the 
House, whose duty it was to see that members "voted as 
was right." The infallibility of Jefferson in the politi- 
cal field was like unto that of the pope in the spiritual, 
and denial of his inspiration was heresy, punishable by 
political death. Good Republicans such as John Ran- 
dolph, for instance, who insisted upon the right of inde- 
pendent judgment, were promptly read out of the party. 
It seemed a far cry to democracy when the President 
insisted upon doing the thinking for Congress and regu- 
lating the actions of its members. 

During all of his first term and for a greater part of 
his second Jefferson succeeded in dominating the party 
which he had helped to create. Caucus and Congres- 
sional floor leader looked to him for advice and direction. 
But the development of this very machinery made possi- 
ble a radical change in the relationship between execu- 
tive and legislature. There was nothing to prevent some 
of the influential members of the House from getting con- 
trol of the party, and through it of the whole administra- 
tion. The House might at any time place one of its real 
leaders in the Speaker's chair, and clothe him with all 
the power formerly enjoyed by Jefferson's floor lead- 
ers. When the party organization became powerful 
enough to elect the president, as it practically did in 
1808, the end of executive control was already in sight. 
Jefferson brought order out of the chaos in his party 
through an effective organization, but in so doing he 
lost sight of the Republican ideal of the earlier period. 
According to those original principles, the House of 
Representatives should have been the most important 


factor in the government. By getting control of that 
very party organization which threatened permanently 
to eclipse such theories, Congressional leaders were able 
to transfer the attributes of sovereignty from the presi- 
dent to the House of Representatives. Madison's presi- 
dency was the transitional period during which this read- 
justment of the relations between the two branches of 
the government was actually brought about. 


By his masterly success in overcoming factional dif- 
ferences, Jefferson proved to the country that as a polit- 
ical leader he was almost without a rival. Few presi- 
dents have had a more disjointed, refractory party to 
deal with, and none has a higher reputation for clever- 
ness in management. For almost eight years he held his 
forces together, and, displaying sometimes a stubborn 
firmness, again a conciliatory spirit amounting almost 
to weakness, he forced the adoption of the program of 
the administration. 

Madison succeeded to Jefferson's office but not to his 
ability. Theoretically he was the party chieftain, but 
in that position he displayed lack of power and want of 
political wisdom as unpleasantly pronounced and con- 
spicuous as it was pathetic. Some of his difficulties were 
due to his own temperament and personality, for he was 
never meant to be a leader of men. But he was in large 
measure the victim of circumstances. Jefferson had 
made the Republican party, and as maker he ruled it. 
The party in its turn made Madison president, and what 
need was there to bow before the idol it created?^ 

Madison's real troubles began even before his inaugu- 
ration. Worn out and discouraged because of growing 
opposition, Jefferson laid down the burdens of office in 
the winter of 1809. Early in January, the House broke 

1 Madison 's troubles as a machine-made president are discussed at length 
in a letter from Pickering to Cabot, March 19, 1810; Pickering MSS. XIV, 


away from executive control, and assumed for itself the 
responsibility of deciding upon the wisdom of various 
measures. For one thing, in spite of Gallatin's heated 
objections, it passed a bill to fit out the navy.^ Less than 
a month afterwards Congress struck another vigorous 
blow at the administration by repealing Jefferson's 
favorite measure, the Embargo, and with that the firmly 
knit and intimate connection between executive and legis- 
lature came to an abrupt end. Even in the caucus, where 
the repeal was really carried, the Congressional major- 
ity seemed determined to break completely with Repub- 
lican custom. ''The Caucus at Washington, on Monday 
evening," ran one account, "was rather a public than a 
private meeting. The doors were not closed. Several 
moderate republicans, and one federalist, attended. Mr. 
Giles made an able speech, in a style compassionate and 
conciliatory towards the eastern People. Messrs. Eppes 
and J. G. Jackson abandoned the War System. It was 
decided by 61 votes to 2 to REPEAL THE EMBARGO 
on the 4th of March next. Messrs. Bassett and Taylor 
were the dissentients. It was decided not to issue Letters 
of Marque. The question of an Armed Commerce was 
fairly left open for decision in the House. The Volun- 
teer Army Bill was given up. A NON-INTERCOURSE 
LAW is to be passed, to take effect at a distant day, if 
another effort for Peace shall fail. An ARMY of Six- 
teen Thousand Men is to be raised, and the Executive is 
to be authorized to borrow TEN MILLIONS OF DOL- 

The strength of the opposition was again emphasized 
by the action of the Senate in the case of the non-inter- 
course act. Senator Pickering had planned to speak 
against it, but he was refused permission. He wrote that 

2 Adams, Gallatin, pp. 385-387. 

sSpooner's Vermont Journal, no. 1335, February 20, 1809, quoting from 
the Freeman's Journal of Februaxy 10. 


"the Admn men, duly prepared in caucus were ready to 
adopt it without discussion. I asked for an explanation 
of the material parts of the bill and their necessary oper- 
ation: but this was denied us. And when I desired a 
postponement only till the next day ; and tho ' it was then 
past four o'clock, this request was refused, and the bill 
passed."* Although he attributed this measure to the 
"administration," Pickering was clearly in error. The 
measure was decided upon in an anti-administration cau- 
cus, and all the other evidence shows that by this time the 
insurgents had full control. The Federalists did not 
realize that an important change was going on in the 
government itself. Hitherto the initiative had been im- 
parted by the president and his friends, but from this 
time on until the "reign" of Andrew Jackson the guid- 
ing power is to be found in other quarters. 

For the time being the reins were seized by a small 
group in the Senate, the commands of which, even in 
matters relating to his own cabinet, Madison was uncere- 
moniously compelled to obey. The president desired to 
transfer Gallatin to the State department, but he was 
forced to forego that plan, and to appoint instead a 
worthless nonentity in the person of one Robert Smith. 
The leaders of this hostile group were General Smith, 
brother of the new Secretary of State, and Wilson Gary 
Nicholas, their brother-in-law. In the face of the attacks 
of this new triumvirate the administration succumbed, 
and Madison could hardly have played a less important 
part during those eight uncomfortable years if he had 
remained in Virginia.^ 

Madison's difficulties in the winter of 1809 were only 
a warning of more troubles to come. While it refused 
to act in harmony with the administration, the eleventh 

4 Pickering MSS. XIV, 230. 

5 Adams, Gallatin, pp. 388-391. Contemporaneous account written by 
John Quincy Adams. 


Congress was so devoid of talent that it could accomplish 
nothing by itself. The characteristics of its two sessions 
were unintelligent discussion and lack of positive action, 
to which the Annals are a lasting and unpleasant memo- 
rial. It had no policy, and the members rambled on 
indefinitely about foreign relations in general and non- 
intercourse in particular. 

To be sure Madison still had Gallatin's assistance, but 
the latter was persona non grata to Congress, so that 
nothing could be accomplished through him. He drafted 
the measure known as Macon's Bill number one, the 
object of which was to exclude both French and British 
vessels from American ports, but his personal enemies 
defeated it in the Senate.® 

After the first session had dragged on for nearly five 
months, Madison wrote to Jefferson that: "Congs remain 
in the unhinged state which has latterly marked their 
proceedings ; with the exception only that a majority in 
the H. of R. have stuck together so far as to pass a Bill 
providing for a conditional repeal by either of the 
Belligtsof their Edicts; . . . "* 

Matters steadily went from bad to worse, and in the 
second session Congress was able to strike a telling blow 
at Gallatin. The bill for the recharter of the National 
Bank was defeated in the Senate by the casting vote of 
the vice president. Thus in the face of a threatened 
crisis in foreign relations the Treasury was deprived of 
the services of a very badly needed financial agent.^ 

The president's position was perfectly obvious to his 
contemporaries. John Randolph of Roanoke, never hap- 
pier than when a lively political fracas was in progress, 
wrote: **The truth seems to be that he (Madison) is 
President de jure only. Who exercises the office de facto 

6 Adams, Gallatin, pp. 413, 415. 

7 Madison, Writings, VIII, 95, April 23, 1810. 

8 Adams, Gallatin, pp. 426-429, February 20, 1811. 


I know not, but it seems agreed on all hands that 'there 
is something behind the throne greater than the throne 
itself ..." Then, concerning Gallatin, he continued : 
**If his principal will not support him by his influence 
against the cabal in the ministry itself, as well as out of 
it, ' ' he ought to resign. ' * Our Cabinet presents a novel 
spectacle in the political world; divided against itself, 
and the most deadly animosities raging between its 
principal members. ..." Three days later he thus 
summarized his observations: "The Administration are 
now in fact aground at the pitch of high tide, and a 
spring tide too. Nothing, then, remains but to lighten 
the ship, which a dead calm has hitherto kept from going 
to pieces. If the cabal succeed in their present projects, 
and I see nothing but promptitude and decision that can 
prevent it, the nation is undone. ' " 

Placed in such an intolerable situation, Gallatin could 
do nothing less than offer his resignation. In a masterly 
analysis of the difficulties under which he and his chief 
had labored, he set forth his reasons for wishing to with- 
draw. In such a government as that of the United States, 
he wrote, '4t appears to me that not only capacity and 
talents in the Administration, but also a perfect heartfelt 
cordiality amongst its members, are essentially neces- 
sary to command the public confidence and to produce the 
requisite union of views and action between the several 
branches of government. In at least one of these points 
your present Administration is defective. . . . New sub- 
divisions and personal factions, equally hostile to your- 
self and to the general welfare, daily acquire additional 
strength. Measures of vital importance have been and 
are defeated; every operation, even of the most simple 
and ordinary nature, is prevented or impeded; the em- 

8 Adams, Gallatin, pp. 430, 431, Eandolph to Nicholson, February 14, 17, 


barrassments of government, great as from foreign 
causes they already are, are unnecessarily increased; 
public confidence in the public councils and in the Execu- 
tive is impaired, and every day seems to increase every 
one of these evils. Such a state of things cannot last; a 
radical and speedy remedy has become absolutely neces- 
sary. ... I clearly perceive that my continuing a mem- 
ber of the present Administration is no longer of any 
public utility, invigorates the opposition against your- 
self. ..." Consequently he tendered his resignation.^" 
Madison, however, did not wish to part with the ablest 
Republican in office, and Gallatin held his position until 
May, 1813, when he welcomed the chance to go abroad 
as one of the peace commissioners." 

The twelfth Congress was the very opposite of its 
inactive, blundering, leaderless predecessor. In place of 
those mediocrities who could do nothing better than pre- 
vent the enactment of Gallatin's proposals, there ap- 
peared that famous group of impulsive, energetic young 
Americans of the west and south, the ''war hawks" of 
1812. Clay, the new Speaker, with Calhoun and Lowndes, 
would give tone to any assembly. Gallatin, who tried at 
first to direct the new Congress as he had tried to direct 
the old,^^ failed again, but for a very different reason. 
With the eleventh Congress he could do nothing, because 
it was impossible to galvanize a dead mass into life. In 

10 Gallatin, Writings, I, 495-496, Gallatin to Madison, March, 1811. 

11 Gallatin did not always agree with Madison. Monroe, in 1820, referred 
to Gallatin's report concerning the condition of the treasury at the begin- 
ning of the War of 1812, the tendency of which was "exceedingly unfavor- 
able to the measures then contemplated by Mr. Madison." J. Q. Adams, 
Memoirs, IV, 500-501. 

12 Pickering MSS. XXX, 17, February 18, 1812. "... indeed such has 
been the confusion and division among the party, that no one has hitherto 
discovered sufficient influence to control any great or general question: 
Smilie who is most notoriously a creature of Gallatin the arch Jugler of 
administration has talked & scolded again & again but in vain. ' ' Eeed 
to Pickering. 


the twelfth there were able, influential leaders in the 
House, with a policy of their own. To be sure it took 
them a little time to get control, but when they did they 
compelled the administration to follow their lead. 

Disgusted with what seemed to them the unpatriotic 
yielding to European belligerents, these militant nation- 
alists determined to take their stand on a policy of 
aggressive action. In former years, the president had 
been able to direct the foreign policy of the government, 
and as party leader he could force the House to sanction 
his proposed measures. In 1812, instead of determining 
what course should be followed, Madison, a notorious 
pacifist, found it expedient or necessary to acquiesce in 
the war policy of the majority in Congress. On May 11, 
Taggart wrote Pickering that there was no doubt of the 
determination of the leaders to declare war, and that 
nothing would deter them except inability to make it. 
A ''mere passive war," he reported, might meet with 
the approval of Jefferson and Madison, but "it will not 
meet with the views of the committee of foreign rela- 
tions and others to whose implicit direction Madison has 
resigned up himself, because, as I believe, he could in 
no other way secure their support in his reelection."" 
Madison 's consent to war was such a puzzle to his oppo- 
nents that they tried to find some reasonable explanation 
for it, and this opinion expressed by Taggart was widely 
circulated and generally believed by the Federalists. 
According to report, a committee, including Clay and 
Grundy, had called on Madison, and threatened to pre- 
vent his reelection if he would not recommend war; 
rather than lose a second term, the president obeyed. 
What the real facts of the case are no one knows. It is 
perfectly clear that if the Congressional caucus had re- 
fused to nominate Madison, his chances of reelection 

13 Pickering MSS. XXX, 41, May 11, 1812. 


would have been almost hopeless. Certainly in 1812 the 
nomination was delayed for some reason. It was not 
until May 18 that the nominating caucus was held; in 
1804 it met on February 24, in 1808 on January 23, and 
in 1816 on March 12. Foster, the British ambassador at 
Washington, asserted that the leaders waited until they 
felt sure of Madison's attitude before they honored him 
with what was practically the gift of a second term. 
''The reason why there has been no nomination made in 
caucus yet, by the Democratic members, of Mr. Madison 
as candidate for the Presidency is, as I am assured in 
confidence, because the war party have suspected him 
not to have been serious in his late hostile measures, and 
wish previously to ascertain his real sentiments."" 

The ''war hawks" might drag the unwilling Madison 
along in their war policy, but for several months they 
had some diflficulty in holding their followers together in 
Congress. ^^ Besides the trouble caused by the Smith- 
Nicholas faction, referred to above, there was other lack 
of harmony within Republican ranks during the early 
part of the war. In May, 1813, Webster wrote that "At 
present, rely upon it, there is great diversity & schism, 
among the party — how much of this can be remedied, by 
caucussing and drilling, it is not easy to say." Again, 
" If we only had three or four more Senators, we should 
see Madison kick the beam. " " Poor Madison ! " he wrote 
a few days later, ' ' I doubt whether he has a night 's sleep 
these three weeks — ." Still more specifically, on June 
19, he wrote: "The fact is, the Administration are, for 

14 Foster to Castlereagh, May 3, 1812, quoted in Adams, Hist, of United 
States, VI, 213. This is the most direct evidence there is on this interesting 
point. The matter was referred to in some of Pickering's correspondence, 
but he gives nothing but hearsay evidence. Pickering MSS. XV, 19, 24, 27. 

On January 5, 1813, Josiah Quincy charged in Congress that Madison 
would not have been reelected if he had not promised to support the war 
policy. Annals, 12 Cong. 2, 565. 

15 Adams, Hist, of United States, VI, 113-219. 


the moment, confounded — They are hard pushed in our 
house — ^much harder in the Senate — . . . Madison has 
been several days quite sick . . . the Taxes go heavily — 
I fear they will not go at all — They cannot raise a Cau- 
cus, as yet, even to agree what they will do — They are in 
a sad pickle, who cares T"^ 

Then, with reference to the proposed plan for raising 
revenue, Hanson said that system as ' ' digested, method- 
ized, altered, and submitted to the House, . . . was the 
result of a compromise; that a majority could not be 
carried along to support it, but for the modification em- 
bracing these reservations; and that a majority could 
not have been induced to vote for the taxes, but upon the 
express condition and expectation that they would never 
take effect;" Hanson referred to the caucus, held at the 
Capitol, which resulted in nothing, because there was 
''much dissention and wrangling," and which finally 
broke up in confusion." 

In January, 1814, Potter of Rhode Island taunted the 
Republicans with their inability to work together. Ac- 
cording to his understanding it was ''not only the right, 
but the duty of the majority to govern — they ought to be 
true to themselves and just to the nation — to lay down 
their course and pursue it . . . without turning to the 
right or left, as on them rests all the responsibility." 
They control the army and the treasury, "and if they 
have not ability to devise a system of measures, stability 
to persevere in, and energy sufficient to execute them, 
they ought not to find fault with the minority." He 
asserted that the administration had been impeded by 
"their own divisions and jealousies, as well in the Cabi- 
net as in the Senate and House of Representatives. . . . 
if the President of the United States, with his means of 

16 Webster, Letters, pp. 35, 39, 42-43 (Van Tyne ed.). 
■^T Annals, 13 Cong. 1, 461. 


information, could not have selected from his political 
and personal friends four gentlemen having the same 
general and political interest with himself that could 
agree with him in his measures," and if the war party 
in the Senate and House could not cooperate, ''how 
could they expect the minority to agree with themf"^^ 

The foregoing statements make it clear that the Repub- 
lican leaders in Congress were not able immediately to 
subject their followers to the strict discipline of the Jef- 
fersonian regime. Executive influence had been thrown 
off, but the House had not yet acquired enough expe- 
rience in going alone to make a good showing. The 
Jeffersonian organization was still in existence, but the 
new managers had not learned how to operate it to the 
best advantage. According to Webster, all really impor- 
tant business was as usual transacted outside the House. 
"In our political capacity," he wrote, "we, that is, the 
House of Representatives, have done little or nothing. 
The time for us to be put on the stage and moved by the 
wires, has not yet come. I suppose the 'show' is now in 
preparation, and at the proper time the farce of legis- 
lating will be exhibited. I do not mean to say that the 
'projects' will not be opposed, as far as may be, nor is it 
certain that all the Democrats will ' hang together, ' on the 
great subject of taxes ; but before any thing is attempted 
to be done here, it must be arranged elsewhere. "^^ 

It was not until 1814 that the Clay contingent obtained 
such complete control of the administration that this 
friction practically disappeared. Even Jefferson himself 
could have done no better in overcoming disintegrating 
forces within the party. With reference to the restric- 
tions on commerce in force during the war, Webster said 
that the system had been given extensive support, "be- 

18 Annals, 13 Cong. 2, 1101, January 21, 1814. 

19 Webster, Private Correspondence, I, 233, June 4, 1813. 


cause it was attended with a severe and efficacious dis- 
cipline, by which those who went astray were to be 
brought to repentance. No Saint in the Calendar ever 
had a set of followers less at liberty, or less disposed to 
indulge troublesome inquiry, than some, at least, of those 
on whom the system depended for support."^" A letter 
to the Columbian Centinel brings out the same idea. 
After reporting that the repeal was not opposed by any- 
one of importance, the writer continued: ''The Man- 
agers of the Nation held their caucus ; where the repeal 
having been decreed, the President, Senate, and House, 
like the old French Parliament, had nothing to do but to 
enregister and execute the edict. So moves our State 
machine. ' '"^ 

In the next session King of Massachusetts delivered a 
tirade against the Republican system of governmental 
management. ''This consolidation of the different de- 
partments of Government, I must observe to you, sir, is 
one of the high crimes which this Administration had 
committed against the Constitution and the American 
people. For party and corrupt purposes you have 
broken down the barriers interposed by the Constitution, 
for the safety of the people, between the several depart- 
ments of power, whereby this Administration, including 
the majorities in both Houses of Congress, have become 
one unleavened lump of democracy and oppression. Not 
content with the Constitution, as you violently tore it 
from Washington and its other friends ; not content with 
creeping under it, leaping over it, winding round it — now, 
sword in hand, attempting to pierce through it ; you have 
so altered it, changed it, and mangled it, to suit your 
party views and purposes — to perpetuate your power 
and misrule — that the people no longer know or acknowl- 

20 Annals, 13 Cong. 2, 1966, April 6, 1814. 

21 Col. Cent., April 20, 1814, letter from Washington, dated April 13. 


edge it ; no longer find under it protection for their prop- 
erty or safety for their lives. "^^ 

One of the striking characteristics of the foregoing 
quotations is the radical change of tone in the comments 
on Congress. Before 1813, the burden of the reports 
from all quarters is the lack of harmony within the ranks 
of the Republicans themselves. Their weakness was so 
evident that it furnished the Federalists ample grounds 
for ridicule. By June, 1813, Webster's correspondence 
was revealing more respect for the ability of his politi- 
cal opponents, and ten months later he could speak dog- 
matically of the ''severe and efficacious discipline" by 
means of which the Republicans were achieving marked 

Concrete evidence of the thoroughness of this inner 
transformation of Congress can be found in the quality 
and quantity of the legislative output in 1816 and 1817. 
After declaring war, the Republicans seemed to have no 
carefully made plans or policies, and for a time the rec- 
ords exhibit almost nothing except the vacillations of the 
party in power. After 1817 Congress again became an 
active, lawmaking body, as it had been before Jefferson's 
retirement, and by the end of Madison's second term it 
had three pieces of constructive legislation to its credit : 
the Second Bank, the tariff of 1816, and the bill for inter- 
nal improvements. 

It is not surprising that the Federalist looked upon 
this reestablishment of Republican prestige and power 
as a restoration of the complete Jeffersonian system. 
Externally perhaps the Republican organization was 
identical with that of former days. Party measures were 
not allowed to come before the House until they had 
been thoroughly discussed in caucus, and after their 
appearance the faithful were careful to follow party 

22 Annals, 13 Cong, 3, 731, December 3, 1814. 


mandates in their votes. To the Federalists it made little 
difference whether a measure originated with the execu- 
tive or with Congressional chieftains ; in either case they 
were deprived of all influence in shaping the policy of 
the government. 

Federalist opinion to the contrary notwithstanding, it 
was virtually a new Congress, and a new system, not a 
reincarnation of the old, that was operating so effectively 
at the end of Madison's second term. The Republican 
organization had undergone a genuine transformation. 
In 1807 the president had furnished the initiative, and 
had been responsible for the more important measures 
introduced in Congress. In 1814 leadership was the 
prerogative, not of the president, but of prominent mem- 
bers of the House of Representatives. A readjustment 
had taken place within the party caucus, the result of 
which was a transfer of the balance of power from the 
president to Congress. 

This fact is revealed in the legislation carried through 
after the war. The various measures referred to, such 
as the Second Bank, the protective tariff, and Calhoun's 
bonus bill, would never have been recommended by a 
Republican of the old school such as Madison, acting on 
his own responsibility. They were all nationalistic in 
tone, and they represented the spirit of the younger 
element in the House of Representatives. During the 
interval between the end of the war and his own retire- 
ment, for some reason Madison felt that it was desirable 
to agree with Congress, possibly because he found it 
easiest to follow the line of least resistance, or possibly 
because of the approaching presidential election. He 
was certainly not opposed to Monroe's candidacy. The 
latter 's success, however, depended upon the support of 
the Congressional caucus, and the president who alien- 
ated his party could not hope for influence in the choice 


of his successor. Until that important question was 
settled Madison stayed with his party, in spite of its 
strikingly nationalistic trend. After Monroe was elected, 
and after his own term was to all intents over, Madison 
mustered up courage enough to assert himself. The 
internal improvements bill was laid before him to sign. 
With nothing more to hope for or fear from Congress, 
the president went back to his original party principles 
and vetoed the bill. It is very significant that he vetoed 
nothing else, and that only on the third of March, 1817. 

After the buoyant Clay and his associates got control 
of the Republican party organization, they were able to 
impose their views on the policy of the nation through 
the medium of the House of Representatives. Their 
activities naturally brought that body forward, and gave 
it a more conspicuous place in the scheme of government 
than it had ever enjoyed before. This increasing promi- 
nence carried with it heavier responsibilities, and made 
necessary a more effective organization. Earlier execu- 
tives had so dominated Congress that it was not required 
to provide means for running itself. During this inter- 
val of executive weakness and Congressional strength an 
internal structure was evolved which would enable the 
House to perform its more complicated duties. 

One significant manifestation of this changed order 
was to be observed in the marked increase in the power 
and prestige of the presiding officer of the House ; under 
Henry Clay the speakership became practically a new 
office. Hitherto members who had held that position 
were chairmen rather than directors of the majority 
party, and during Jefferson's administration the Speaker 
was subordinate in actual importance to the floor leader. 
The president's personal representative had guided the 
deliberations of the House, and when necessary saw that 
the dictates of the Commander-in-Chief were obeyed. A 


weak president could not expect such unconditional sub- 
mission, and apparently Madison had no personal agent 
in the House. Clay, however, was both Speaker and 
leader of the majority party, something that none of his 
predecessors had ever been. 

This development of the speakership was accompanied 
by, if it was not actually responsible for, another change 
of almost equal importance. Under the Clay regime the 
standing committee system was firmly established, and 
it was through these subdivisions that the popular 
Speaker was able to impress the stamp of his theories on 
legislation. Thus by 1825, so far as its organization was 
concerned, the House of Representatives had assumed its 
present form. 

Note. On January 5, 1813, Josiah Quincy, a radical Federalist, deliv- 
ered a speech in the House, in which he attempted to describe the striking 
features of the Republican system of government. His breezy words have 
attracted more or less attention, and because of that they may be worth 
quoting in part. It should be carefully noted, however, that his statements 
hold good only for Jefferson's two terms. Like other Federalists he failed 
to realize the change which followed Madison's election. At the time he 
was speaking it was not the cabinet, but the Clay following that was the 
determining factor in legislation. 

"It is a curious fact," he said, "but no less true than curious, that 
for these twelve years past the whole affairs of this country have been 
managed, and its fortunes reversed, under the influence of a Cabinet little 
less than despotic, composed, to all efficient purposes, of two Virginians 
and a foreigner. ... I refer to these circumstances as general and 
undoubted facts. ..." 

"I might have said, perhaps with more strict propriety, that it was a 
Cabinet composed of three Virginians and a foreigner; because once in 
the course of twelve years there has been a change of one of the characters. 
But, sir, that change was notoriously a matter of form than substance. 
As it respects the Cabinet, the principles continued the same; the interests 
the same ; the objects at which it aimed, the same. ' ' 

"I said that this Cabinet had been during these twelve years little less 
than despotic. This fact also is notorious. During the whole period the 
measures distinctly recommended have been adopted by the two Houses of 
Congress, with as much uniformity and with as little modification, too, as 
the measures of the British Ministry have been adopted during the same 
period by the British Parliament. The connexion (sic) between Cabinet 
Councils and Parliamentary acts is just as intimate in the one country as 
in the other." 


"I said that these three men constituted to all efficient purposes, the 
whole Cabinet. This also is notorious. It is true that during this period 
other individuals have been called into the Cabinet. But they were all of 
them comparatively minor men, such as had no great weight, either of 
personal talents or of personal influence, to support them. They were 
kept as instruments of the master spirits. And when they failed to answer 
the purpose, or became restive, they were sacrificed or provided for. The 
shades were made to play upon the curtain. They entered. They bowed 
to the audience. They did what they were bidden. They said what was 
set down for them. When those who pulled the wires saw fit, they passed 
away. No man knew why they entered. No man knew why they departed. 
No man could tell whence they came. No man asked whither they were 
gone. ' ' 

' ' From this uniform composition of the Cabinet, it is obvious that the 
project of the master spirits was that of essential influence within the 
Cabinet. ' ' He then charged that the ' ' leading influences want not asso- 
ciates, but instruments, ' ' therefore they filled the Cabinet with mediocrities, 
and the civil service with politicians. 

' ' And further, it is now as distinctly known, and familiarly talked about 
in this city and vicinity, who is the destined successor of the present Presi- 
dent, after the expiration of his ensuing term. ..." One main object 
of the cabinet is to secure the succession for themselves and their friends. 
' ' This is the point on which the purposes of the Cabinet, for these three 
years past, have been brought to bear — that James the First should be 
made to continue four years longer. And this is the point on which the 
projects of the Cabinet will be brought to bear for three years to come — 
that James the Second shaU be made to succeed, according to the funda- 
mental rescript of the Monticellian dynasty. ' ' Annals, 12 Cong. 2, 562-567. 




The foregoing outline of Madison's relations with 
Congress brings out the conditions amidst which the 
standing committee system came into prominence. The 
old legislative methods which had worked so well under 
the successful and watchful supervision of Hamilton and 
Jefferson had broken down in 1809. During the next 
two years, as it happened, there was no one in the admin- 
istration or in Congress able to bring about a restoration 
of order. In 1811 and thereafter for several years, some 
of the ablest men in public life were to be found in the 
House of Representatives. The disorder and confusion 
of the eleventh Congress was a challenge to their aggres- 
sive spirits, and they were ready enough to take up the 
responsibilities involved in working out and directing 
the national policy. For means to be used in the attain- 
ment of their ends, they employed the ruins of the Jeffer- 
sonian machine, formidable enough in its day, but sadly 
in need of repair. For a few years they worked along 
with nothing better, and while they accomplished some- 
thing, they were not able completely to eliminate fric- 
tion and waste. By 1816 the House had accustomed 
itself to the extensive use of standing committees, and 
all accounts of that time agree that legislation progressed 
as smoothly as it had ever done in the best days of Hamil- 
ton or Jefferson. "With the Federalists complaining 
bitterly of the effectiveness of the new system, it is evi- 


dent that Clay, the brilliant young Speaker, had solved 
his problem. 

In the early days, far from being the most striking 
characteristic of the House, as it is to-day, the standing 
committee was looked upon with distrust, and in Repub- 
lican ranks it encountered no inconsiderable opposition. 
The first standing committee of ways and means had 
been dropped by the Federalists, not because they dis- 
approved of it in principle, but merely because it did not 
fit in with their scheme of government. As far as they 
were concerned the Secretary of the Treasury was the 
only agent needed in the transaction of financial busi- 
ness ; from the point of view of real efiiciency, Hamilton 
certainly was superior to any Congressional committee. 

To some of the Republicans, on the other hand, stand- 
ing committees were a positive evil, chiefly because they 
were not authorized by the Constitution. They asserted 
that when that document conferred certain powers and 
duties upon the House of Representatives, it meant not 
a single member, nor a group of individuals, but the 
House itself, as an entity. It left the members no choice 
in the matter, and it allowed them no discretion to de- 
cide whether or not they might select a few of their 
number to act for them, as agents in the performance 
of such obligations. In the second Congress, Livermore 
of New Hampshire even went so far as to oppose the 
appointment of a standing committee of elections, on 
the ground that jurisdiction in contested elections had 
been given to the House itself. This duty, he argued, 
could no more be transferred to any other body than the 
power of legislation. In spite of his spirited opposition 
a standing committee was appointed, and either from a 
sense of humor, or from a desire to defeat the purpose 


of the appointment, the Speaker made Livermore its 

One of the most outspoken advocates of this kind of 
strict construction was Page of Virginia, who consist- 
ently opposed the reference of any important measures 
to committees. In the third Congress, when the Repub- 
licans proposed to appoint a select committee to attend 
to certain details of the financial work of the House, 
Page spoke vigorously against the appointment. Plans 
for raising revenue must originate in the House, not in 
a committee, he argued, and much as he had objected 
to the reference of such work to Hamilton, he was still 
less in favor of turning it over to a committee. The 
report of a committee would carry even more weight 
than the report of a secretary, and it would be more diffi- 
cult to get rid of its recommendations. He did not wish 
to see the House relinquish any part of its constitutional 

Two years later, in the course of a debate on a pro- 
posal to restrict the carrying trade of foreign vessels, 
Page tried to prevent reference of the subject either to 
the committee of commerce and manufactures, or to the 
committee of ways and means. Instead he advocated 
the time-honored practice of discussion in committee of 
the whole. He thought every subject should come before 
the House ''unaccompanied with the opinions of a select 
committee, or of any individual whatever." He was 
opposed to "having public measures smuggled into the 
House, no one could tell how.'" 

This fear of committees was not confined to the early 
years of Congress, when opposition might be accounted 
for on the ground that the device was unfamiliar. In 

1 Annals, 2 Cong. 1, 144-145. 

2 Ibid., 3 Cong. 1, 532. 

3 IMd., 4 Cong. 1, 248. The question was referred to the committee of 
the whole. 


1805, when the House had had time enough to become 
fairly well acquainted with the system, objections were 
still occasionally heard. The committee on rules in that 
year recommended the creation of a standing committee 
on public lands. Bedinger voted against the proposal, 
because he feared that a ** standing committee, vested 
with the entire business connected with the public lands, 
should gain such an ascendency over the sentiments and 
decisions of the House, by the confidence reposed in them, 
as to impair the salutary vigilance with which it became 
every member to attend to so interesting a subject."* 
After 1801 the Federalists criticised the Republicans 
because of their reliance upon committees, but their 
objections were based on the fact that they were a Ee- 
publican device, rather than to any really serious feel- 
ing that the system was intrinsically wrong. The fol- 
lowing quotation serves as a good illustration of these 
Federalist comments. This particular writer alleged 
that the Republicans were constantly trying to increase 
their power as a party, ''and to weaken and embarrass 
all the regular departments and authorities of the gov- 
ernment that might obstruct their designs. More than 
seven years ago, they tried to shut the doors of Con- 
gress to Reports from the Treasury Department. They 
tried to put all the business into the hands of Committees. 
They endeavored to make the House the Supreme Treaty 
making power, and to reduce the President to a cypher. 
The House, too, by going on to appropriate every item 
of the public expenditures down to the details of fifty 
cents, would engross the whole executive business, and 
as it was impossible the House could do it, the Com- 
mittees must, and the heads of parties would govern and 
manage the committees."^ As time went on most of 

4 Annals, 9 Cong. 1, 286. 

5 Washington Federalist, January 14, 1802. 


these objections disappeared, and standing committees 
were taken as a matter of course. 

The growth of the standing committee system, together 
with certain important changes in procedure which nat- 
urally accompanied the development, went on slowly 
after 1794. The several steps in the process can be 
traced in the journals, and in the debates, but the rules 
do not serve as a safe guide. Customs and practices 
were very frequently established in the House long 
before they were accorded formal recognition. For 
instance, the committee of ways and means had been in 
regular use for seven years, and the committee of for- 
eign relations for over twenty, before they were added 
to the list of committees provided for by rule. 

The fact that standing committees had been constantly 
in use for years in most of the state legislatures did not 
seem to have any marked influence on Congressional 
procedure. The committee of elections, regularly ap- 
pointed after the first Congress, was hardly a legisla- 
tive committee in the sense that it played any part in 
the transaction of routine business. The first addition 
to this list of one was made in 1794, by the creation of 
the committee of claims.® In the first session of the 
fourth Congress the revised rules provided for the 
appointment of the two committees mentioned above, and 
for two others, one on revisal and unfinished business, 
the duty of which was to lay before Congress a list of 
temporary laws in need of renewal, and also a list of 
matters left over from the previous session, and the 
other on commerce and manufactures.^ A week later 
Gallatin moved the appointment of a standing committee 
of ways and means, which became to all intents and pur- 
poses one of the regular committees, although no provi- 

6 Annals, 3 Cong. 2, 879. 
ilbid., 4 Cong. 1, 140, 141, 143. 


sion was made for it in the rules until 1802/ In 1799 
and regularly thereafter there was appointed a com- 
mittee on post offices and post roads, although there is 
no mention of it in the rules until 1808.^ A committee 
on accounts was established in 1803, one on public lands 
in 1805, and one on the District of Columbia in 1808. 
These nine were all provided for by rule when Clay 
became Speaker in 1811." 

This formal list of nine, however, does not show all 
the standing committees regularly used in the House 
during the twelfth Congress. By this time the presi- 
dent's annual message had become standardized to the 
extent that certain stock subjects, so to speak, were 
always treated at greater or less length therein. For 
example, in his speech to Congress in 1797 President 
Adams dealt with foreign relations, Indian affairs, and 
the general subject of defense. In the House these 
matters were referred to so-called select committees, 
although as a matter of fact they remained in existence 
throughout the session, and in every respect conformed 
to the definition of standing committees." As time went 
on these committees on foreign affairs, Indian affairs, 
the army, and the navy became just as important as any 
of those provided for in the rules. In the spring of 1812, 
the committee of foreign relations did not exist, accord- 
ing to the rules, yet in influence it was fully the equal of 
the committee of ways and means.^^ In 1815 an attempt 
was made to bring the rules into harmony with actual 

8 Annals, 4 Cong. 1, 159. 

9 The first committee on post offices and post roads was appointed in 
1796. There was none in the fifth Congress, but beginning with the sixth 
Congress it was regularly appointed. Annals, 4 Cong. 2, 1598; ibid., 6 
Cong. 1, 198. 

10 Ibid., 12 Cong. 1, 332-334. 

11 Ibid., 5 Cong. 2, 653-655. 

12 For other examples of these appointments, see Annals, 10 Cong. 1, 
795, 12 Cong. 1, 334. 


practice by adding to the formal list six of these com- 
mittees on the president's message/^ For some un- 
known reason the change was not made, although the 
committees themselves were still regularly appointed 
and constantly used. In 1822 the committees on Indian 
affairs, foreign affairs, military affairs, and naval affairs 
were formally added." 

In the meantime other committees were created, so 
that in 1825, when Clay's career in the House came to 
an end, there were twenty-five in all. The new ones, 
in order of appointment were : judiciary (1813) ; pensions 
and Revolutionary claims (1813); public expenditures 
(1814) ; private land claims (1816) ; six separate audit- 
ing committees on expenditures respectively in the State, 
Treasury, War, Navy, and Post Office departments, and 
on public buildings (1816) ; manufactures (1819) ; agri- 
culture (1820). The committee on manufactures was an 
offshoot of the old committee of commerce and manu- 
facture. Five different attempts had been made to divide 
that committee, and in 1819 the proposal was carried." 

The general cause of this development is evidently to 
be found in the efforts of Clay and his friends to take 
control of the government; the particular reason was a 
steady increase in the amount of routine work in Con- 
gress. A large proportion of this business related to 
clearly defined subjects, and it was natural to classify 
this, and to concentrate as much of it as possible in the 
hands of a few committees. That the committee form of 

13 Annals, 14 Cong. 1, 380-381, 385. Wilde submitted the resolution to 
add the six following committees to the list in the rules: military affairs; 
naval affairs; foreign affairs; militia; roads and canals; ordnance; forti- 
fications, arsenals, etc. The resolution was referred to the committee 
appointed to revise the rules, but nothing more was heard of it. 

14 The rule providing for the change was adopted in the first session 
of the 17th Congress, but the first appointments under it were not made 
until December 3, 1822. Annals, 17 Cong. 2, 329. 

15 Ibid., 11 Cong. 1, 230; 11 Cong. 2, 690, 717; 13 Cong. 3, 304; 
14 Cong. 1, 381-382; 16 Cong. 1, 708-710. 


organization seems to be the natural one for such bodies 
is shown by the early — as well as the more recent — his- 
tory of the House of Commons, and of the various colo- 
nial and state legislatures. The House of Representa- 
tives was not obliged to organize itself for defense 
against an aggressive executive, because the source of 
authority of both branches of the government was the 
same. Nor was it compelled to assume executive func- 
tions, because they were attended to by departments sub- 
ject to the control of Congress. Moreover there was no 
real need for a single important committee, such as the 
committee on public bills in North Carolina, to give unity 
and definite direction to legislation. That kind of work 
was being done in the caucus, a body well fitted for the 
performance of such duties, because the executive could 
take part in its deliberations. What was needed was a 
more systematic method of transacting business, and 
the standing committee was a logical solution of the 

These general statements are borne out by the orders 
given to new committees at the time of their first appoint- 
ment. According to the regular formula in which their 
duties were outlined, the committees were charged *Ho 
take into consideration all such petitions, and matters or 
things, respecting" commerce or post offices or what 
not.^® If more particular directions were necessary they 
were given. The committee of accounts for example was 
instructed to ''superintend and control the expenditure 
of the contingent fund of the House of Representatives, 
and to admit and settle all accounts which may be 
charged thereon.'"^ 

In the case of the committee on the District of Colum- 

■^^Ajinals, 4 Cong. 1, 141; 9 Cong. 1, 290; 10 Cong. 1, 2127; 11 Cong. 1, 
230; 13 Cong. 1, 123; 13 Cong. 2, 796; 14 Cong. 1, 1451. 

17 Ibid., 8 Cong. 1, 790. This statement shows that the committee was 
not a committee of appropriations in any sense of the word. 


bia it was urged that the purpose of the appointment 
was to ''simplify the business relating to the district." 
Questions of great national concern always had prior 
claim in Congress, and in order to guarantee proper 
attention to the needs of the District, its affairs were 
placed in the hands of a standing committee/* 

In urging the creation of a separate committee of 
manufactures Sawyer argued that Congress ought to 
have "employed on the subject of manufactures the un- 
divided energies of the best talents of the House; he 
hoped that all the rays of patriotism and genius in the 
House would be directed to this subject as to a focal 
point at which they should all converge." Others who 
spoke in favor of the same measure emphasized the 
point that the subject of manufactures was so important 
that it might well occupy all the time of a separate com- 
mittee.^^ The growing interest in the protective prin- 
ciple outside of Congress, and the steadily increasing 
amount of legislative business in the way of petitions 
and bills concerning it created the demand for this par- 
ticular committee. 

Although Clay is generally given credit for the estab- 
lishment of the modern standing committee system, he 
was more interested in changes in procedure than in 
additions to the mere number of committees. In fact, 
an analysis of the course of this growth shows that of 
the twelve new ones created during the interval from 
1811 to 1825, seven were merely auditing committees, and 
one was the outgrowth of an old committee. Moreover 
Clay was Speaker in 1815, when the attempt failed to 
add to the rules those six committees on the president's 
message. It may or may not be significant that Bar- 
bour, and not Clay, was Speaker in 1822, when four of 

18 Annals, 10 Cong. 1, 1486-1487. 

i^lbid., 11 Cong. 2, 690; 14 Cong. 1, 381; 16 Cong. 1, 708. 


them were finally so added. Again, the movement to 
create a separate committee of manufactures failed 
twice while Clay was Speaker. There is certainly no 
evidence to indicate that he took the slightest pains to 
make any extensive additions to the number of standing 

But the fact that the list of standing committees be- 
came longer during the years of Clay's leadership in the 
House is by no means the most important phase of this 
particular kind of institutional development. The man 
who made the speakership was concerned primarily with 
improvements in methods of transacting business, and 
it is in this field that Clay made his great contribution. 
In particular, at this time, the standing committees were 
allowed to take charge of more work, and were given 
greater responsibilities. It is this aspect of committee 
development, the process by which committees were 
gradually woven into the fabric of procedure, that is the 
really significant feature of Congressional growth. Re- 
duced to its lowest terms, the change consisted in a trans- 
fer of important functions from the committee of the 
whole to various standing committees. 

During the first decade of the federal Congress, im- 
portant measures were invariably discussed at length, 
and general principles were evolved, in committee of the 
whole. Not until those preliminary steps had been taken 
might a subject be turned over to a committee to be put 
in the form of a bill. Early Congresses were insistent 
on that point. Nevertheless the fact that standing com- 
mittees were gradually gaining ground at the expense 
of the committee of the whole can be observed in pro- 
tests against the new procedure. All along there is evi- 
dence that the champions of the old order were conscious 
of this process of transition, and that they were doing 
their best to prevent it. It was not alone in the first 


Congress that the Virginians, and others too, for that 
matter, were "stiff and touchy" concerning the com- 
mittee of the whole. For several years the Republicans 
manifested a disinclination to depart from what they 
considered the only democratic form of procedure. 

In the beginning the committees of the House, both 
select and standing, had been used almost entirely in 
connection with merely routine work. No power of ini- 
tiative was given to them. In 1796, for instance, when the 
House was discussing a resolution having for its object 
the restriction of the carrying trade to American vessels, 
a very logical motion was made to refer the subject to 
the committee of commerce and manufactures. Gilbert 
said that the House had lately appointed standing com- 
mittees for considering certain particular subjects, and 
if the proposal under discussion related to any one of 
those committees, it ought to be so referred, ''in pur- 
suance of the system adopted here for doing business." 
''If it were a proposition respecting revenue," he con- 
tinued, "it would, without hesitation, be referred to the 
Committee of Ways and Means; and if we would uni- 
formly pursue the course of transacting the business 
lately settled by the House, there would be no hesitation 
in referring the proposition, in the first instance, to the 
Committee of Commerce." This very sane exposition 
of the function of the committees did not accord with the 
views of the majority. Madison in particular objected 
to the proposed reference, on the ground that all impor- 
tant propositions ought to be referred in the first instance 
to the committee of the whole, and his view, rather than 
the newer one, prevailed.^" 

Again in 1802 Lowndes stated that the principle of 
the action to be taken with reference to the French 
Spoliation Claims ought not to be left to a committee. 

20 Annals, 4 Cong. 1, 245-247, 249, January 15, 1796. 


"That must be decided in the House. It was the duty 
of the committee barely to make arrangements to pro- 
tect the House from imposition on the score of facts."" 
This theory that standing committees must have noth- 
ing to do with general principles was again emphasized 
in 1806. When the president's message was taken up 
in the early part of the session, Nicholson submitted a 
resolution to refer that part of it which dealt with the 
attitude of belligerent men-of-war toward the United 
States to the committee of ways and means, and the sub- 
ject was accordingly disposed of in that way.^^ Some 
weeks later Smilie said that he could not understand 
why such a reference had ever been made. He 
thought "it furnished the first instance of a great 
national principle being referred to any standing or 
select committee of the House. It had always been usual 
to refer such principles for settlement, in the first 
instance, to a Committee of the Whole on the State of 
the Union, to which committee several memorials on the 
same subject had been referred." He accordingly 
moved that the committee of ways and means be dis- 
charged from further consideration of the question, and 
that it be referred to the committee of the whole. No 
action was taken at the time, but his motion was brought 
up again a few days later, and carried.^^ Evidently the 
House believed that the attempt to use the committee of 
ways and means for the consideration of important ques- 
tions was an unwarranted interference with a firmly 
established custom. An error had been made in the orig- 
inal reference, and the House took pains to make the 
proper correction.-* 

21 A7inals, 7 Cong. 1, 1003-1004, March 15, 1802. 

22 Ibid., 9 Cong. 1, 258, December 4, 1805. 
^znid., 9 Cong. 1, 376, 409, 410, 412. 

24 For other statements of this same theory, that general principles were 
to be handled in committee of the whole, and that details alone could be 


This evidence shows that the committees were simply 
fingers of the House, and nothing more, convenient 
organs for putting business in shape for consideration 
by the committee of the whole. This view still prevailed 
as late as 1812. In that year, while speaking of some 
petitions concerning the repeal of the Embargo, Calhoun 
said that the objects of reference to a committee were 
two : to investigate some fact, and to digest and arrange 
the details of a complicated subject, "so that the House 
may more easily comprehend the whole. This body is 
too large for either of these operations, and, therefore, 
a reference is had to smaller ones."^'* 

In this connection it should be noticed that far from 
being customary to refer every bill to its appropriate 
standing committee immediately after its introduction, 
the practice was absolutely unknown. After due delib- 
eration the House might order a committee to draft a 
bill, and it might refer the bill back to the same committee 
for technical amendments, but bills might, and often did, 
go through without being referred to any standing 

Subjects, not bills, were referred to committees in the 
first instance. These were introduced into Congress by 
resolution, by communication from the president or a 
head of one of the departments, or by petition. The 
normal course was to refer the subject to some commit- 
tee, or to the committee of the whole, for a report. This 
report when submitted would be discussed in committee 
of the whole, and then, after the mind of the House was 
fully made up, a committee would be appointed to draft 
and bring in a bill in accordance with the specific direc- 
tions of the committee of the whole. 

left to committees, see Annals, 4 Cong. 2, 1736; 5 Cong. 2, 693-700; 7 Cong. 
1, 477. 

25 Annals, 12 Cong. 1, 1395-1396. 


A good example of procedure at the time is to be found 
in the action taken on Jefferson's message of December, 
1805. He outlined the difficulties under which American 
shipping labored, because of aggressive action of Euro- 
pean belligerents. The message itself was referred to 
the committee of the whole ; the section mentioned above 
was then turned over to a select committee. This com- 
mittee reported, and on January 23, the report was taken 
up in committee of the whole. It appeared that the com- 
mittee had recommended the appropriation of a certain 
sum for harbor defense, but the committee of the whole 
decided that the sum named was wholly inadequate. The 
committee of the whole thereupon decided that it needed 
more information on the subject, so it appointed a com- 
mittee of two to call upon the president, for more light. 
On February 28 the discussion was resumed. Finally, on 
March 25, the House passed two resolutions : one to 
appropriate a sum not to exceed $150,000 for fortifying 
the harbors, and the other to appropriate not over 
$250,000 to build gunboats. A committee was then 
appointed to draft a bill in accordance with these reso- 
lutions. On April 15 the committee of the whole began 
its debate on the bill to appropriate $150,000 for harbor 

The very leisurely course on this measure shows 
clearly that the only part played by the committees was 
to assist the House in getting ready for actual work. All 
really important steps were taken, and all decisions 
made, in committee of the whole. The House estab- 
lished the principles, while the committees worked out 
the details, acting only under specific orders in each 

From the nature of the case it was impossible for the 

26 Eiehardson, Messages, I, 383-384; Annals, 9 Cong. 1, 258, 377, 378, 
381, 391-395, 523, 842-846, 1029. 


committee of the whole to keep on in that way. A genu- 
ine rush of work would clog the whole system. It is not 
surprising then to find evidence that the committee of the 
whole was gradually being relieved of some of this detail, 
which was in turn passed on to standing committees. 
For one thing, during and after Jefferson's first term, 
it was customary to refer the various parts of the presi- 
dent's message to the appropriate standing committees, 
and to defer action on those matters until after the re- 
ports were received. Madison's annual message in 1811 
was taken up in committee of the whole, according to 
custom, but before any debate could take place it was 
split into parts and distributed to various committees. 
At this particular time John Randolph of Eoanoke urged 
that the message itself was important enough to warrant 
full discussion in committee of the whole. This prince of 
separatists did not deny that the course proposed was 
regular enough, but he objected to having the message 
''dissected, taken out of the House and put into the 
hands of committees," because such action made impos- 
sible any discussion of the message as a whole. He was 
overruled, and the message went to the committees with- 
out further debate.-^ 

This practice of which Randolph complained would 
inevitably result in the assumption of more power by 
the standing committees. They were in fact rapidly 
ceasing to be mere subdivisions of the House, appointed 
to investigate and arrange matters of detail, and were 
becoming bodies not of experts exactly, but of special- 
ists, each one of which was moderately familiar with 
various phases of its particular subject. Formal reports 
of such committees would tend to crystallize opinion, and 
the House itself might very easily get into the habit of 
letting its committees do all the thinking. Randolph felt 

27 Annals, 12 Cong. 1, 334-338. 


that dependence upon them made it altogether too easy 
for a few influential members to dictate Congressional 
policy on great national issues. 

Further evidence of the steadily increasing prestige 
and importance of standing committees is to be found 
in the granting of full power to report by bill. As long 
as their work was confined merely to the investigation 
and arrangement of detail, naturally reports could not 
be submitted in the form of bills. Even the committee 
of ways and means could not report a bill without specific 
authorization.-* They gathered material, which had to 
be arranged in a general way in committee of the whole. 
It was a fixed custom that a committee must not report 
a bill until the general principle thereof had been 
decided upon in committee of the whole.^^ 

A debate on this very point was brought on in the fifth 
Congress, when one committee asked leave to report by 
bill, because its labors would be greatly lightened if it 
could put its conclusions in that form. Nicholas 
promptly asserted that it was the custom of the House 
to have all important business presented in the form of 
a simple report, which would afford opportunity for dis- 
cussion and reflection. Venable followed, by stating that 
'4t was wholly contrary to the practice of the House to 
go into details before they had settled the principle upon 
which they were about to act." Gallatin also argued 
against granting the request on the ground that com- 
mittees "never came forward at the beginning of a ses- 
sion to ask leave to report by bill." The vote on grant- 
ing this request was 45 to 45, and the Speaker cast his 
vote in favor of it.^° All this opposition was encountered 
after part of the president's message had been referred 

28 Annals, 5 Cong. 2, 697. 

29 lUd., 4 Cong. 2, 1732-1736. 

30 Ihid., 5 Cong. 2, 693-700. 


to tlae committee, so that some kind of a report was 

As late as 1803 the House went so far as to refuse a 
second reading to a bill reported by the committee of 
commerce and manufactures, for the sole reason that a 
report in that form had not been authorized. After 
some discussion the committee was ordered to withdraw 
its report." Up to 1815 special permission was always 
required before a committee could present its report in 
the form of a bill.^^ Li 1815 and thereafter blanket per- 
mission to report by bill or otherwise was given to all 
standing committees, and to all committees on the presi- 
dent's message.^^ This in itself raised the committees to 
a position of commanding importance in the House. 

By 1819 such marked progress in the acquisition of 
power had been made that the committee of ways and 
means could venture to report a general appropriation 
bill with the blanks filled. For years it had been cus- 
tomary for the committee to make its report, naming 
the various objects for which appropriations would be 
needed, but without stating the specific amounts. These 
blanks were invariably filled in after discussion in com- 
mittee of the whole. On this occasion Johnson of Vir- 
ginia wanted to know what authorization there was for 
such an innovation. He thought this new plan extremely 
dangerous ; the blanks ought to be filled in by no less an 
authority than the committee of the whole. Lowndes, 
the chairman who reported the bill, said in reply that 
the estimates had been supplied by the various depart- 
ments. The committee of ways and means had looked 
them over, and made a few changes that seemed desir- 
able. Any member, he said, might take exception to any 
or all of the items if he thought they were uncalled for 

31 Annals, 7 Cong. 2, 313-314. 

32 Ihid., 13 Cong. 2, 788-789. 

33 JUd., 14 Cong. 1, 377. 


or extravagant.^* This complaint shows that important 
duties were being transferred from the committee of the 
whole to standing committees. 

By 1816 it is evident that standing committees had 
become important enough, if not actually to determine 
the policy of the House, at least greatly to influence its 
decisions. Speaking on his motion to repeal the direct 
tax, Hardin of Kentucky said he approached the subject 
with considerable reluctance. To his great regret, he 
observed in the House ''an unconquerable indisposition 
to alter, change, or modify anything reported by any 
one of the Standing Committees of the House. ' "^ Three 
weeks later, in discussing a bill reported by the com- 
mittee on military affairs, designed to provide for vet- 
erans of the War of 1812, Taul objected to the provision 
which would reward the officers with gifts of land. And 
yet, he said : 

' * I confess that I distrust my own judgment when it is differ- 
ent from that of any of the standing committees of the House. 
The members composing those committees are selected for their 
capacity and particular knowledge of the business to be referred 
to them. Those selections have been judiciously made. The 
standing committees have a double responsibility on them. 
Hence it is presumed that every measure, before it is reported 
to the House, undergoes a very nice scrutiny. Those committees 
have deservedly great weight in the investigation and decision 
of such questions as may have come before and been decided on 
by them. ' '^^ 

If more evidence were needed that the standing com- 
mittees had taken over the management of all important 
business, it might be found in the following indignant 
protest. During the debate on a resolution to repeal the 

3* Annals, 15 Cong. 2, 468-470. 

35 Ihid., 14 Cong. 1, 747, January 24, 1816. 

36 /bid., 14 Cong. 1, 989, February 15, 1816. 


internal revenue act, Johnson spoke vigorously against 
the tendency to delegate legislation to standing com- 

"Mr. Speaker," he said, "I am extremely sorry that the 
resolution on your table, and those by whom it is supported, 
should have experienced such unmerited treatment. How long, 
sir, has it been settled, that the rights and the interests of the 
American people shall be exclusively confided to the few mem- 
bers of this House who compose its standing committees : or, 
more peculiarly, to the still smaller number appointed to pre- 
side over these committees? Is it presumptuous, or criminal, in 
any other member of this body, to submit a proposition, which 
he believes calculated to promote the interest, the prosperity, and 
the happiness of the nation? Are the laws imposing taxes to 
remain fixed and unalterable, except by the will and pleasure 
of the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, or by 
the will and pleasure of the chairman of some other important 
standing committee? Shall no other member dare to propose 
the repeal of any revenue law, lest he be denounced as a miser- 
able time-serving trimmer, and hunter after popularity ? ' '^'^ 

Certainly a marked change had taken place in the rela- 
tionship between the House and its standing committees 
since 1803, when a bill was refused a second reading 
because the committee of commerce and manufactures 
had not been authorized to submit its report in that form. 
John Randolph must have indulged in some bitter re- 
flections when he saw committee reports carrying so 
much weight that ordinary members hesitated to make 
counter proposals. 

If this development can be attributed to the efforts of 
any one man, Henry Clay may be held responsible, or 
given the credit for it. His contributions to legislative 
procedure were all in the direction of a more effective 

37 Annals, 14 Cong. 2, 963, February 17, 1817. 


organization, the result of which was to speed up opera- 
tions in the House. Just as his restrictions on useless 
debate relieved the pressure in one direction, so this 
transfer of duties and responsibilities from the commit- 
tee of the whole to standing committees, and the division 
of labor among them, lightened it in another. The prac- 
tice of doing everything of importance in the committee 
of the whole may have been democratic, but there was 
always the danger of aimless drifting. The records of 
the eleventh Congress show what actually did happen. 
The old system was literally wrecked by a combination 
of inefficient leadership and cumbersome procedure. Al- 
though it could not guarantee the House against a recur- 
rence of the first of these evils, Clay's work did tend 
to prevent another such unfortunate combination of the 

Among the defects inherent in the committee sys- 
tem there was one in particular, apparently unavoidable, 
which might at any time occasion troublesome confusion. 
It was impossible to delimit the fields of committee juris- 
diction so precisely that there would be no overlapping. 
As a result the House would sometimes lose itself in a 
fruitless debate over the proper reference of a certain 
subject, or worse still, two committees might each con- 
sider the other responsible for attending to a measure, 
and consequently neither would act. 

Even in the case of the standing committee of elections, 
where there was apparently no room for doubt, some 
members could not be made to understand what kind of 
business properly lay within its field. In the second 
Congress, when a petition alleging certain irregularities 
in Wayne's election came up for discussion, Baldwin 
moved to refer it to the standing committee of elections. 
It was immediately objected that the question "did not 
come within their cognizance." The petition was there- 


upon laid upon the table for ten days, when it was re- 
ferred to a select committee.^* 

In 1796, when the House was discussing Smith's reso- 
lution, the object of which was to exclude foreign ship- 
ping from American carrying trade, members found it 
hard to agree whether to refer it to the committee of 
commerce and manufactures, the committee of the whole, 
or to a select committee.^^ 

In dealing with the president's speech or message, the 
House was often inconsistent in referring its various 
parts to committees. For example, in 1797, one section 
which clearly belonged to the committee of commerce 
and manufactures was referred to a select committee, 
and another part regarding finance went to a select com- 
mittee instead of the committee of ways and means.*" 
In 1798 one section of Adams' speech concerning regu- 
lations to prevent the introduction of contagious dis- 
eases was referred to the committee of commerce and 
manufactures, after the failure of an attempt to give it 
to a select committee. Another section which dealt with 
certain aspects of the collection of import duties was 
referred to the committee of commerce and manufac- 
tures, instead of the committee of ways and means.*^ 

The following instance is perhaps not of the utmost 
importance. In 1822 one James Bennett petitioned Con- 
gress to pass a special act giving him and his heirs for 
forty years **the right of steering flying machines 
through that portion of earth's atmosphere which 
presses on the United States." The gentleman in ques- 
tion had invented a flying machine ''by which a man can 

3S Annals, 2 Cong. 1, 175, 210. 

39 Ihid., 4 Cong, 1, 245-249. For a similar example of confusion, see 
ibid., 4 Cong. 2, 1737-1746. 

40 Ibid., 5 Cong. 2, 653-655. 

41 Ibid., 5 Cong. 3, 2443. For other examples, see ibid., 2490; 9 Cong. 1, 
333, 342-343; 15 Cong. 2, 367-368. 


fly through the air — can soar to any height — steer in any 
direction — can start from any place. ..." Milnor 
moved to refer the petition to the committee on the 
judiciary. Sergeant, the chairman, objected, on the 
ground that the ''committee did not undertake to soar 
into regions so high. Their duties were nearer the 
earth." Walworth then moved to refer it to the com- 
mittee on roads and canals. The House negatived that 
proposal, and someone suggested the judiciary again. 
Sergeant rose to protest, for the reason "that it was 
above their reach," and also ''that they had so much 
business before them of a terrestrial character, that they 
could not devote their time to philosophical and aerial 
investigation." The petition was finally laid on the 

Perhaps the best illustration of this difficulty is to be 
found in the operations of the committees of ways and 
means and of commerce and manufactures. The funda- 
mentally important subject of the tariff lay clearly 
enough within the fields of both committees, so it is not 
surprising that the House was puzzled when it had to 
refer matters to them. One committee could not frame 
a protective tariff bill without making a rent in the whole 
fabric of finance, while the other would naturally let the 
needs of the Treasury take precedence over the demands 
of manufacturers. At first, before committees were 
given free rein in framing bills, the only problem was 
that of reference. The first brush between the adher- 
ents of the two committees came in 1801, when Smith 
moved that the committee of commerce and manufactures 
be directed to inquire whether any changes might be made 
in the tariff laws. Griswold objected at once, because 
the subject dealt with revenue, and he moved to refer the 
matter to the committee of ways and means. Smith 

42 Annals, 17 Cong. 1, 1361. 


insisted that the subject ought to be discussed by ''com- 
mercial men, of whom alone the Committee of Commerce 
and Manufactures was composed." By taking advan- 
tage of their expert advice, the House might learn 
whether the duties should be increased or diminished. 
Griswold reiterated his argument that the motion con- 
templated a revision of the revenue, and therefore be- 
longed to the ways and means, ' ' for which purpose alone 
that committee was formed." Speaker Macon evaded 
the very pretty problem thus presented to him, and ruled 
that either reference was ''perfectly in order." Smith's 
motion was finally carried." 

A similar difficulty was encountered in referring peti- 
tions asking for changes in the revenue, or urging fur- 
ther protection for manufactures. In the fourteenth 
Congress, petitions on such subjects were referred to 
both committees, apparently without any attempt at con- 
sistency. If any general principle is discernible, it 
would appear that petitions involving questions prima- 
rily of revenue, and secondarily of protection, were re- 
ferred to the committee of ways and means. Others went 
to the committee of commerce and manufactures. It is 
difficult however to draw any hard and fast line.** 

After the committees were given more freedom in 
reporting bills, this conflicting jurisdiction at times 

43 Annals, 7 Cong. 1, 317-318. 

44 Ibid., 14 Cong. 1, the following petitions were referred to the com- 
mittee of commerce and manufactures: from makers of cotton cloth, urging 
a prohibitive duty on coarse cotton goods, p. 382; from manufacturers in 
Massachusetts, asking for legislation to encourage cotton manufacturing 
in the United States, p. 392; from woolen manufacturers in Massachusetts 
and cotton manufacturers in New Jersey, for the same thing, pp. 392, 395; 
several asking for protection on white lead, cotton, etc., pp. 472-473. 

The following went to ways and means: from sugar planters in 
Louisiana, asking that the war duties on foreign sugar be made permanent; 
one asking for a repeal of the tax on manufactured tobacco, and another 
asking for the repeal of the direct tax on salt, pp. 458, 472-473, 678. 


threatened to become serious. There was the possibility 
that both committees might undertake the same work, 
or that each would try to hold the other responsible, so 
that there would be serious friction on the one hand, or 
a total neglect of important business on the other. 
Under such conditions it would have been the natural 
thing for the two committees concerned to get together 
outside of Congress, smooth over their differences, and 
agree on some common line of action. The curious 
thing is nevertheless that in some cases they almost 
ignored each other's existence. On April 24, 1820, 
Smith, chairman of the committee of ways and means, 
submitted his report, in which he gave a general survey 
of the financial situation. He announced a probable 
deficit for the ensuing year, urged Congress to econo- 
mize, and laid before the House a bill providing for a 
loan. He made no reference to the tariff, and did not 
even hint that any changes might improve the condi- 
tions which he described.*^ 

One week later, Baldwin, chairman of the committee 
of manufactures, reported a new tariff bill. In introduc- 
ing it, he referred to the embarrassment experienced by 
himself and his fellow committeemen in attempting to 
deal with a subject which lay partly in the field of another 
committee. He had planned at first, he said, to report a 
bill dealing with manufactures alone, but the Treasury 
was empty, and the committee of ways and means had 
declined to recommend any changes in the revenue sys- 
tem. Consequently he assumed full responsibility, and 
tried to work out a plan that would protect manufac- 
turers and replenish the Treasury at the same time. He 
realized that in recommending a general revision of the 
tariff, he might encroach on fields of other committees, 

*s Annals, 16 Cong. 1, 1837-1845. 


but if they neglected their duties, they could hardly 
blame him for bringing forward badly needed bills.*^ 

During the years from 1801 to 1820 more work con- 
nected with the tariff was done by the committee of manu- 
factures than by the committee of ways and means.*'^ In 
1821 Monroe's recommendations on the subject of pro- 
tection were referred to the committee of manufactures, 
in accordance with established custom. In dealing with 
this subject, without taking the trouble to find out what 
the regular practice was, Professor Burgess jumped at 
the conclusion that this reference was a new departure. 
His statement, incorrect both in fact and in inference, 
runs as follows: "Heretofore this subject had been re- 
ferred to the committee of Ways and Means, the regular 
revenue-raising committee. Its reference now to the 
committee on Manufactures is good evidence that the 
House of Representatives regarded a protective tariff 
as a subject which Congress might deal with independ- 
ently, and without any necessary connection with the 
subject of the revenue."** This argument is worthless, 
for the simple reason that Congress did not depart from 
precedent in this instance. 

A curious debate over the tariff of 1824 brings out 
some of the consequences of this conflicting jurisdiction. 
After the chairman of the committee of manufactures 
had reported the new tariff bill, Owen immediately asked 
that the committee of ways and means be directed to 
examine and report its probable bearing on revenue, 
particularly as to whether the proposed measures would 
increase or decrease the governmental income. He ad- 
mitted that there was ground for criticism in calling 
upon that committee, because if a deficiency should arise 

46 Annals, 16 Cong. 1, 1916-1918. 

*7 For two other examples, see Annals, 8 Cong. 1, 949; 11 Cong. 1, 

48 Burgess, The Middle Period, p. 110. 


from the act of one committee, it, and not another, should 
be called upon to make good the loss. ' ' From this opin- 
ion, should it be entertained," he said, "I must dissent; 
over public revenue and public expenditure, the Com- 
mittee of Ways and Means have exclusive jurisdiction; 
from that committee, alone, then, can any information 
upon these points come officially, and in this shape we 
ought to have it." McLane in reply said that he did 
not object to the call for information, but he did dis- 
approve of the method proposed. Eecourse should be 
had to the chairman of the committee who reported the 
bill, as he had all the facts at hand, and he must have 
figured out the probable effect of the bill. If the ways 
and means were called on, they would simply go to the 
committee of manufactures for information. The bill 
in question was not drawn to raise revenue, but to pro- 
tect manufactures, hence it ''appertained wholly to the 
other committee." 

Trimble said that if the members really wanted an 
opinion of the probable effects of the bill, they ought to 
go to the Secretary of the Treasury. He was at the head 
of the financial system, and would be able to supply all 
desired information. Ingham agreed with Trimble. He 
said such information always came from the secretary, 
and if the House should apply to the committee of ways 
and means, it would have to go to the Treasury for the 
facts. Floyd however objected to calling on the secre- 
tary for information. He thought it was inconsistent 
with the dignity of the House to go for information con- 
cerning its duties to one of the president's secretaries. 
After forty-two pages of such discussion, the House 
finally voted, ninety-six to ninety-two, to table Owen's 
resolution.*^ With two different committees and the 

49 Annals, 18 Cong. 1, 1587-1629, especially 1586, 1587, 1589, 1614, 1615, 


Secretary of the Treasury all trying to take a hand in 
directing the revenue system, it is not surprising that 
the administration of American finance has been char- 
acterized by unbusinesslike confusion, and worse yet by 
careless extravagance. 

By 1825 the main outlines of the committee system 
were clearly drawn. The House was divided into small 
groups, each of which was held responsible for the trans- 
action of the greater part of all work relating to some 
one particular subject. Even at that time the House 
was inclined to pass with little scrutiny bills reported 
by important committees. Subsequent development has 
consisted chiefly in the working out of details of the sys- 
tem, rather than in the establishment of any new prin- 
ciples. The important part of legislation was done in 
committee rooms rather than in Congress, and as time 
went on it became increasingly difficult to bring any busi- 
ness before the House until it had been passed upon by 
the appropriate committee. 


From one point of view, the standing committees were 
specialized agents of the House ; from another, they were 
avenues of communication between the House and the 
cabinet. In any discussion of American federal legis- 
lative methods, it is necessary to keep constantly in 
mind the fact that the different branches of the govern- 
ment are separated by the Constitution. While it pre- 
vents the possibility of any serious encroachment of the 
executive upon the legislature, this barrier has made 
necessary the evolution of some means whereby har- 
monious and concerted action may be secured. The 
caucus had answered the purpose well enough for a time, 
but it was an undifferentiated body, not well adapted to 
the changed conditions after 1812. The constant pres- 
sure of increasing business, along with the steadily grow- 
ing prestige of the House itself, demanded the use of 
other methods, and the standing committee system 
proved to be an excellent medium of intercommunica- 
tion. There was a standing committee to correspond to 
each one of the important executive departments : Treas- 
ury, State, War, Navy, Justice, and the Post Office. The 
system was flexible enough to adjust itself automatically 
to any shifting of leadership. Whether the master 
minds were in the executive or in the legislature, they 
could always impress their views on the policy of the 
government through the standing committees, because 
the current could flow in either direction. 

In 1795, when, through Gallatin's efforts, the commit- 


tee of ways and means was brought into existence, this 
idea of cooperation was not uppermost in his mind. In 
fact, if it was not exactly a substitute for the secretary, 
that committee was designed to be a check upon him, 
rather than an agent for coordinating the financial 
operations of the House and the Treasury. Such a con- 
dition of separatism could not endure very long. The 
Secretary of the Treasury and the committee of ways and 
means were too closely bound together by their common 
interests, and even in 1796 there is evidence that the two 
were beginning to work together.^ By 1797, according to 
Fisher Ames, the committee had ceased to act independ- 
ently, and was relying implicitly upon the secretary.'^ 

From the nature of the case there would be few indi- 
cations of intimacy between committees and depart- 
ments until the committees themselves became important 
enough to warrant attention, in other words, until about 
the time of Clay's speakership. There is, however, a 
little evidence of this cooperation before that time. In 
1806 the chairman of the committee, appointed to con- 
sider that part of Jefferson's message dealing with har- 
bor defense, reported that the committee had conferred 
with the Secretary of War on the subject, and that the 
secretary had furnished the committee with a general 
survey of the condition of the coast defenses, together 
with an estimate of the probable cost of needed repairs.' 
This statement elicited no particular comment, so such 
cooperation must have been taken as a matter of course. 

Grallatin had always been ready to give the House 
assistance at any time and in any way. After Madison's 
election he was temporarily excluded from active leader- 
ship, but by 1812 he was again working in concert with 
the standing committees, particularly with the committee 

1 Annals, 4 Cong. 1, 379-380, 917. 

2 Hamilton, Works, VI, 202. 

3 Annals, 9 Cong. 1, 380. 


of ways and means. The relationship between them was 
close enough to call forth a complaint from Calhoun. 
With reference to a certain report submitted by the com- 
mittee he remarked: **What, sir, constitutes a feature 
in the report still more extraordinary and objectionable, 
is the apparent understanding between the Committee 
and the Treasury Department. They coyly refuse to 
recommend any positive act of legislation, while they 
indirectly intimate what they wish and expect the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury to do."* Shortly afterward, in 
referring to shipping licenses, Grosvenor said that the 
bill under discussion was a ' ' Treasury machine, invented 
by the able Secretary of that Department. . , . Sir, to 
my eye, the hand of the honorable Secretary is apparent 
in every part of the machinery." On February 9, Gal- 
latin wrote to the chairman of the committee of ways 
and means, so Grosvenor said, and recommended a tax 
of six dollars per ton on foreign shipping. On February 
15, a bill for that purpose was reported. ' ' The honorable 
Secretary never speaks to this House in vain. ' '^ 

As a good Federalist, Webster was inclined to follow 
his party in criticising this evident reliance of the com- 
mittee upon the secretary. At one time he wrote that the 
committee of ways and means had decided to report all 
tax bills as they came from the Treasury, and to leave all 
discussion on the subject to the House.® After Gallatin 
left office his successors maintained this connection, and 
there is throughout evidence of intimacy between the 
Treasury and the committee of ways and means. 

During the War of 1812, Monroe, acting Secretary of 
War, was constantly consulting with the House com- 
mittee on military affairs. At the very beginning the 
committee called upon him, to get information regarding 

* Annals, 12 Cong. 2, 315-317. 
lUd., 12 Cong. 2, 1139-1140. 
6 Webster, Letters, p. 37 (Van Tyne ed.). 


the number of troops to be raised/ In the next session 
Monroe wrote that he had received letters from the mili- 
tary committees of both houses, with reference to the 
organization of the regular army, and of the volunteers, 
in which he was requested to give advice as to needed 
additions. Monroe sent in a long report, and also sup- 
plied the committee with an outline of the plan of cam- 
paign for 1813.^ To the Columbian Centinel such inter- 
course savored of tyranny. ''The truth is, Mr. Secre- 
tary Monroe has informed them that the war requires 
that the Standing Army should be augmented to FIFTY 
THOUSAND men," and that the bounty for enlistment 
ought to be increased. ''The Committee are about to 
register the edict. . . . '" 

Congress depended upon Monroe to furnish the neces- 
sary bills for increasing the army. In 1814 Webster 
wrote that the conscription bill was before the House. 
"The bill is drawn principally on Mr. Monroe's first 
plan. Of course we shall oppose such usurpation all we 


Naturally the committee of foreign affairs maintained 
close relations with the executive. It had collaborated 
with the Secretary of War in working out a plan of de- 
fense in 1811." Then the bill for the sixty days embargo 
that preceded the declaration of war was prepared by 
the committee of foreign relations, with the able assist- 
ance of Albert Gallatin. The procedure in that instance 
was significant. Madison sent in a special message, rec- 
ommending the embargo, and the message was referred 
to the committee of foreign relations. After a brief 
interval. Porter, the chairman, reported a bill, which had 

7 Monroe, Correspondence, V, 206-207. 
sibid., 227-241, 

9 Col. Cent., December 30, 1812. 

10 Webster, Private Correspondence, I, 245-246. 

11 Col. Cent., December 7, 21, 1811; January 4, 1812. 


apparently been prepared before the message was re- 
ceived. Porter himself said that the bill was ' ' draughted 
according to the wishes and directions of the Secretary 
of the Treasury. "^^ 

When the House and the cabinet were on terms of 
political friendship, the committee of foreign relations, 
or at least its chairman, was on very intimate terms with 
the Secretary of State. ''The Chairman of the Com- 
mittee of Foreign Relations has always been considered 
as a member in the confidence of the Executive," wrote 
John Quincy Adams, "and Mr. Forsyth acted thus at 
the last session. The President has hitherto considered 
him as perfectly confidential, and directed me to commu- 
nicate freely to him the documents concerning foreign 
affairs, particularly those with Spain, which I have 
done. ' '" It was customary for the chairman to call upon 
the Secretary of State at the opening of a session, to find 
out whether or not there would be any measures regard- 
ing foreign affairs which would require legislative action. 
Then there would follow a general conversation about 
important questions pertaining to the work of the de- 
partment." In some cases the Secretary of State would 
give the chairman of this committee important state 
papers, on the express condition that they would not be 
laid before Congress. The two men went over the whole 
field of foreign relations very thoroughly, and the chair- 
man was in the habit of giving the secretary a resume 
of his report before he submitted it to Congress.^^ 

More than that, the chairman of the committee of for- 
eign relations was in the position practically of an ex 

12 Annals, 12 Cong. 1 (Suppl. Journal), 1587-1588. John Eandolph 
subsequently spoke of it as: "The embargo, engendered from a fortuitous 
concourse between the Executive and the Committee of Foreign Rela- 
tions. ..." Ibid., 12 Cong. 1, 1385. 

13 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, IV, 65. 
i^Ibid., IV, 183-184. 

i^IMd., IV, 210. 


officio member of the cabinet. Adams reported one 
instance when Monroe asked him to notify the members 
of the cabinet to meet the next day to discuss the Florida 
question. According to the president, ''it had been here- 
tofore customary for the Committee of Foreign Rela- 
tions to act in concert with the Executive, and to show 
their reports before making them. He thought they 
ought to do so now." At the ensuing cabinet meeting 
Holmes, the chairman, was present, and gave the cabi- 
net an outline of his proposed report.^® 

Adams' numerous comments make it evident that for 
a part of Monroe's first term, the committee of foreign 
relations was little more than the legislative agent of 
the department of State. Certainly the relationship was 
so intimate that there was little friction. Such a con- 
nection naturally suffered when Clay began his assaults 
upon the administration. In 1819 Adams wished to have 
a commission appointed to adjust the Florida boundary. 
He made known his desire to Holmes, chairman of this 
committee, and Holmes in turn laid the proposal before 
the House. He moved to amend the bill which provided 
for the occupation of Florida by adding clauses author- 
izing the appointment of such a commission, and the 
appropriation of the amount needed to defray the ex- 
penses of the members. Holmes expressly stated that 
he proposed the amendment because it had been asked 
for by the Secretary of State, who considered it desir- 
able, and not because the committee thought it was essen- 
tial. In reply to a query by Clay, Holmes admitted that 
Adams had made suggestions with reference to the 
amount of the appropriation. Much to Adams ' displeas- 
ure, the amendment was not carried." 

His defeat on this measure marked the end of his influ- 

16 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, IV, 212-214. 

■i-T Annals, 15 Cong. 2, 1428-1430; J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, IV, 281. 


ence with the committee of foreign relations. In Decem- 
ber, 1819, John Randolph was placed on the committee, 
and henceforth confidential intercourse between secre- 
tary and committee practically ceased. Communica- 
tions of importance could no longer be laid before the 
committee in secret, because Randolph would be sure to 
report the whole proceeding to the House.^^ When Mon- 
roe wished to furnish Lowndes, the new chairman, with 
some papers which could not be made public, Lowndes 
preferred not to see them, because he could not make any 
allusions to his special information without giving rise 
to harmful suspicions." On one subsequent occasion 
Adams made the blunder of laying before the committee 
the documents concerning his negotiations with France. 
*'It had always been considered as a practical rule," he 
wrote, ''that the Committee of Foreign Relations should 
be the confidential medium of communication between the 
Administration and Congress. The Speaker had now 
appointed a committee entirely new, of members chiefly 
known to be hostile to the Administration, with a Chair- 
man generally understood to be at personal variance with 
me. To this committee all the papers relating to a com- 
plicated and delicate pending negotiation with France 
are confidentially committed, and the next day one of 
the members of the committee offers a resolution calling 
for them all."'" 

Adams also referred to relations between other com- 
mittees and the cabinet. ''Now, Crawford," he wrote, 
"is constantly boasting that he draws up bills for 
committees, who present them exactly as he draws 
them."*^ At one cabinet meeting the draft of a bill by 
Newton, chairman of the committee of commerce, was 

18 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, IV, 478. 

19 Ibid., IV, 505-506. 

20 Ibid., V, 474-476. 

21 Ibid., IV, 281. 


examined and discussed. Various amendments were 
proposed, and Crawford was asked to write a new section 
to take the place of the third in Newton's bill.-^ Again, 
Southard, the Secretary of the Navy, showed Adams the 
draft of a bill which he planned to have laid before the 
House by the chairman of the committee on naval affairs, 
the object of which was to establish a naval school.^^ 

Although this direct connection between committees 
and cabinet was taken as a matter of course, it was not 
considered proper for a committee chairman to negotiate 
directly with the president. Adams said that "Dis- 
cussion between the President and committees of either 
House of Congress can never be proper, and are never 
sought but by Chairmen of committees disaffected to the 
Executive. ' '"* 

Before these habits of cooperation had become regular, 
members were accustomed to profess more or less 
horror when cabinet officials made recommendations 
to the House. As a result of several years of such 
intercommunication, through the medium of caucus or 
standing committee, the House not only expected the 
secretaries to make suggestions regarding necessary 
legislation, but even looked with suspicion at important 
measures which were not so recommended. When the 
bill for chartering a new bank was brought forward in 
1814, Grosvenor took exception to the manner of its 
introduction. He believed it was unconstitutional to 
charter a bank except to accomplish national objects, 
and to facihtate the handling of the revenue. "As to 
those objects, however," he said, "it was the consti- 
tutional duty of the Secretary of the Treasury to devise 
the ways and means, and if such an institution were 
necessary for the purposes of Government, it was the 

22 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, IV, 504, 509. 

23 Ihid., VII, 90-91 ; also V, 131-132. 

24 IMd., VI, 267. 


duty of that officer to recommend it. He wished the 
Secretary to say whether such a bank was necessary, 
and not that the subject should be referred to a com- 
mittee of this House, and they to inquire privately of 
the Secretary as to the expediency of the measure. 
When the proposition came in at the proper Constitu- 
tional door, and appeared to be necessary . . . ," he 
would not object. ' * If such a necessity exists, he wished 
the Government to come forward and declare it, and 
not shrink from the responsibility of recommending the 
measure.'"^ Oakley said that he did not believe "it was 
so exclusively the duty of the Executive Department to 
recommend the establishment of a National Bank. . . ." 
Even though the measure did not come in at the proper 
door, that was no reason for condemning it.-" Gaston 
agreed with Grosvenor, and expressed his ''entire dis- 
approbation of the indirect introduction of Executive 
recommendations into the House, as producing legis- 
lation without intelligence, and action without respon- 
sibility. ..." He would not vote against a measure 
simply because the executive had not recommended it 
openly, but he would have been better pleased ''if the 
measure had been directly recommended by the Execu- 
tive. . . ."^^ To ward off criticism of that kind, Dallas, 
the new Secretary of the Treasury, recommended the 
incorporation of a bank in his next annual report.^* 
Referring to the bill which was introduced in accordance 
with that suggestion, Ingersoll said, "The Treasury 
Department, in concert, and after long consideration 
with the Committee of Ways and Means, assuming the 
responsibility of their respective stations, have recom- 
mended to us the plan of a bank which is comprehended 

25 A7inals, 13 Cong. 2, 1942. 
28 Ibid., 13 Cong. 2, 1943. 

27 Ihid., 13 Cong. 2, 1945. 

28 iMd., 13 Cong. 3, 403. 



in the bill under discussion.'"' The bank bill that was 
finally passed was framed by a select committee of which 
Calhoun was chairman, but the committee merely 
followed the plan laid before them by Dallas. When 
the bill was under discussion in Congress, Calhoun was 
constantly in touch with the Secretary of the Treasury. 
This conviction in the House that "government bills 
ought to be recommended by the proper executive 
authority was emphasized in still another way. On the 
very day when Grosvenor was objecting to the method 
of the introduction of the bank bill, Wilson submitted 
some resolutions, urging that the committee on military 
affairs be instructed to inquire into the expediency of 
providing by law for opening and improving military 
roads. Under ordinary conditions, he said, it might be 
expected that the War department would be aware of 
the need, if it existed, and would call the attention of 
Congress to the subject. At that time, however, the 
Secretary of War was too busy to attend to such matters. 
But his department would have general oversight of the 
work, and it was proper to refer the question to the 
committee on military affairs, because it was ''more 
conversant with the channels of information to be 
derived from the military department, and in the daily 
practice of receiving it, which must be supposed to afford 
a facility in their inquiries which another committee 
might not so conveniently possess.'"^ Two years later, 
when it seemed desirable to make certain changes in the 
organization of the War department, and of the militia, 
Congress called upon the Secretary of War to furnish 
the necessary bills. In compliance with that request the 
bills were laid before the House early the next session.^^ 

29 Annals, 13 Cong. 3, 604. 

80 Ibid., 14 Cong. 1, 494-514, 1229-1233. 

31 IMd., 13 Cong. 2, 1935-1936. 

^2lUd., 14 Cong, 1, 1408-1409; 14 Cong. 2, 270-275. 


There were some members who thought that this 
cooperation between the two branches of the government 
would in time make the House nothing but a mere 
auxiliary of the executive. Hardin complained that the 
manner in which legislative business was carried on 
*' destroyed the freedom of legislation altogether. The 
President signified his will to the Heads of Depart- 
ments — they made their annual report to the House, 
recommending the adoption of certain measures; it was 
pretty well understood that what they recommended was 
the will of the Executive; the reports of the Heads of 
Departments were referred to the standing committees, 
a majority of whom were followers of the Executive; 
they kept in secret conclave for a month or two, until 
the House became all anxiety, and solicitude was on tip- 
toe. Each day an inquiry would be made when they 
would report? Not ready yet, would be the answer. 
The members of the committee looked grave, pensive, 
and melancholy, as if oppressed with a mighty weight 
of thought. At last they would burst upon the House 
with their report ; and what was it when made ? A mere 
echo, a mere response to Executive will, with small and 
immaterial variations, intended for the purpose of 
inducing the House to believe that they had matured the 
subject well, when, perhaps, they had never thought 
about it; pre-determined, from the first, to re-echo back 
in substance Presidential will ; and when the report thus 
made finds its way into the House, it is fixed. Right or 
wrong, it must not be altered. Each member of the 
committee adheres to it, each hanger-on supports it, and 
all, as the poet says, 'who live and never think' support 

The standing committee system is often criticised on 
the ground that it tends to scatter the energies of the 

33 Annals, 14 Cong. 1, 747-748, January 24, 1816. 


House, and to prevent the fixing of definite respon- 
sibility. Even though this censure is justifiable, it is 
difficult to conceive of any other arrangement which 
would have fitted in so well with the peculiar conditions 
in the House of Representatives. Institutions are merely 
mechanical devices which come into existence to meet 
some peculiar want, the organs to perform certain 
definite functions. As the federal government gradually 
learned how to operate, the House was compelled to 
evolve a system which would satisfactorily solve, not 
one or two, but three problems. It was not enough that 
the committees should attend to routine work in Con- 
gress, and in addition serve as avenues of communication 
between cabinet and legislature. It will be recalled that 
in order to enact their measures, the Federalists, and 
after them the Jeffersonians, were compelled to band 
their forces together in a kind of extra-Congressional 
organization, through which the party could exert its 
strength. Those in touch with the government knew that 
legislation was carried on, not by Congress as such, but 
by the inner circle of majority leaders. Now the com- 
mittee of the whole had been of necessity relieved of 
some of its important duties, because of the increasing 
amount of work. If division of labor was necessary in 
Congress, it was equally desirable in the party. The 
caucus was not discarded by any means, but it could be 
left free to deal with the more general aspects of party 
interests, because the standing committees might safely 
be charged with much of the detail. Consequently, these 
committees became in a way the specialized agents of 
the majority, just as they were of the House, and of the 
executive. As a result, the three indispensable factors 
in the government: executive, legislature, and political 
party, were provided with a number of common deputies, 
by means of which the different forces at work could be 


united in a single common channel. When executive and 
legislature were actuated by a desire to work together, 
this system made possible the proper correlation of these 
three factors, the avoidance of a duplication of labor, and 
the elimination of waste energy. 

Party control of the committees was assured through 
the method of appointment. Almost from the beginning 
the Speaker was empowered to select the committees,^* 
and by the time standing committees had become at all 
important, the Speaker himself was chosen in party 
caucus. Just how early this practice became regular is 
not known; probably very soon after party lines were 
drawn. With reference to the choice of Speaker, Miss 
Follett states "that although some concerted action must 
always have been necessary to produce a majority result, 
caucuses as we know them did not appear until towards 
the middle of the century. "^^ Inasmuch as caucuses 
were to all intents and purposes electing the president 
of the United States long before the middle of the cen- 
tury, and differed from those as we know them only 
perhaps in being more influential, the statement just 
quoted is not particularly illuminating. As a matter of 
fact there are occasional newspaper references to show 
that the speakership did come within the range of caucus 
deliberations even in the early days. ** Among the 
extraordinaries of the day," ran an item in the Colum- 
bian Centinel of December 7, 1799, "may be ranked the 
caucussing of the Jacobins at Philadelphia, in favor of 
Mr. Rutledge, of South Carolina, as Speaker, in oppo- 

34 In the first session of the first Congress, the Speaker appointed small 
committees, but the House chose all those of more than three members by 
ballot. Journal House of Heps., 1 Cong. 1, 6. In the second session the 
Speaker appointed all the committees, unless the House directed otherwise; 
Journal, 1 Cong. 2, 140. In the second Congress the Speaker was authorized 
to appoint committees until the House should see fit to make other arrange- 
ments. Annals, 2 Cong. 1, 142. 

35 Follett, Speaker of the House, p. 40. 


sition to Mr. Sedgwick, because the latter is a northern 
man. ..." Again in 1814, the same paper mentioned 
the election of Cheves to succeed Clay, who had resigned 
to go to Ghent. Cheves was elected, in spite of the fact 
that his opponent, Grundy, "was not only the caucus but 
the white-house candidate."^" After Clay's attack on 
the Monroe administration, there was apparently a 
caucus held to consider a possible successor for him. 
Monroe told Adams that several members had come to 
ask him ''whether it would be advisable to displace Clay 
as Speaker." The President advised against it, ''be- 
cause it would be giving Mr. Clay more consequence than 
belongs to him."^^ These references make it fairly 
evident that the Speaker was elected by a party caucus. 
As early as 1797, too, there is evidence that party 
considerations were becoming an important factor in the 
selection of committees.^* Then, in 1802, John Ran- 
dolph, at that time one of the most conspicuous of the 
Republican leaders, was chairman of so many different 
committees that he could not attend to them all.^® This 
in itself is an illuminating commentary on party prac- 
tices in those days. By 1813 standing committees were 
avowedly made up in the interests of the dominant party. 
Webster wrote that in the appointments for that session 
"A Federal name is now & then put in, to save appear- 
ances. "*° The next year King complained that on the 
committee of ways and means New England had no 
representation, while the middle, southern, and western 
states were represented. ' ' It may have been an accident, 
or he (the speaker) may only have followed the bad 
example of some bad predecessor," he said. Even on 

36 Col. Cent, January 26, 1814. 

37 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, IV, 471. 

38 "South Carolina Federalists," Am. Hist. Bev., XIV, 786, 

39 Annals, 7 Cong, 1, 478. 

40 Webster, Letters, p, 34 (Van Tyne ed.). 


the least important committees there was a majority 
against New England." 

In 1820 Adams charged that in appointing the com- 
mittee of foreign relations. Clay ''selected that one with 
a view to prevent anything 's being done congenial to the 
views of the Administration."*^ John Randolph's pres- 
ence on the committee that year would in itself prove 
that Adams was telling the truth. 

Whether the composition of committees was actually 
decided in caucus or not made little difference. The 
Speaker was the caucus nominee, and even Henry Clay 
could not take the risk of antagonizing his fellow mem- 
bers in the House. In 1827 it appears that the appoint- 
ment of the standing committees was delayed in order 
that the caucus might have time to decide on the 

It was very seldom that disaffected members made any 
attempt to alter the method of committee appointment. 
In 1806 John Randolph's action in holding back, or 
refusing to make a report for the committee of ways and 
means, led to a movement in favor of appointment by 
ballot. In offering a resolution, the aim of which was 
to take the appointing power away from the Speaker, 
Sloan said, "I offer these resolutions for the purpose 
hereafter of keeping the business of the House of Repre- 
sentatives within its own power, and to prevent in future 
the most important business of the nation from being 
retarded by a chairman of the Committee of Ways and 
Means, or of any other committee, from going to Balti- 
more or elsewhere," and staying six days, and also to 
"prevent in future the chairman of the Committee of 

41 Annals, 13 Cong. 3, 444-445, 449. 

42 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, IV, 507. 

*s Ibid., VII, 373-374, 377: "It is understood that the appointment of 
the committees in the House by the new Speaker is to be settled by the 
leaders of the party." 


"Ways and Means from keeping for months the estimates 
for the appropriations necessary for the ensuing year 
in his pocket, or locked up in his desk, whereby the 
different appropriation bills may be kept back (as they 
have been this session) to the great injury of the 
nation. . . . Resolved, That hereafter all standing com- 
mittees of the House of Representatives shall be ap- 
pointed by ballot, and shall choose their own chairmen. ' '** 
Nothing was done at the time, but a vote was taken on 
the subject early the next session. By an extremely 
narrow margin the Speaker was permitted to keep his 
power of appointment.*^ 

A similar attempt was made in the tenth Congress. 
Blount said that in order to relieve the Speaker of a 
very unpleasant duty, it would be desirable to have the 
committees named by ballot, so he made a resolution to 
that effect. He thought the proposed method would be 
''most satisfactory to the House and to the Speaker 
also." Smilie defended the regular practice. The ballot 
method had been resorted to occasionally, he said, and 
it had proved to be unsatisfactory. The Speaker was 
well qualified to do the appointing. In naming com- 
mittees, he argued, ''it was proper to select the most 
fit characters for each — on the Committee of Commerce 
and Manufactures, for instance, there ought to be placed 
commercial men ; on the Committee of Ways and Means, 

ii: Annals, 9 Cong. 1, 1114-1115. 

45j&id., 9 Cong. 2, 111. In his Life of Macon, pp. 208-209, Professor 
Dodd states that the northern Eepublicans feared Eandolph's reappoint- 
ment as chairman of the committee of ways and means, and to prevent it 
they tried to take the appointing power away from the Speaker. The 
greatest of all northern Eepublicans, however, Albert Gallatin, was extremely 
anxious to have Eandolph continued as chairman of the ways and means 
committee. On October 30, 1807, Gallatin wrote as follows to his wife: 
' ' Varnum has, much against my wishes, removed Eandolph from the Ways 
and Means and appointed Campbell, of Tennessee. It was improper as 
related to the public business, and will give me additional labor. ' ' Adams, 
Gallatin, p. 363. 


such as were best acquainted with the subjects of finance, 
etc., whereas in committees appointed by ballot, it will 
depend on accident whether fit persons be appointed or 
not. Besides, in such elections there is no responsibility ; 
the contrary is the case when the Speaker selects the 
members of a committee. He is responsible for the 
choice he makes, and will therefore exercise great pre- 
caution in it."*^ In the eleventh, and again in the 
thirteenth Congress, similar attempts were made, bul 
in both cases they were voted down.*' It was evident 
that clear-headed party leaders did not propose to trust 
to luck in making up the committees, nor did they care 
to let the committees get beyond their control. 

In view of the increased importance of the Speaker 
it would have been natural for the president to take a 
keen interest in the choice of that official. There is, 
however, little evidence to show that he attempted to 
dictate the selection. Perhaps before Clay's time there 
was little need for attention to that detail. It is signifi- 
cant that what evidence there is on this point is to be 
found after Clay had attempted to assume the direction 
of both the foreign and the domestic policy of the 
government. In 1821 some members of the administra- 
tion had a few conferences with Taylor, one of the 
candidates for the office. Taylor was ready to promise 
to support the executive in return for whatever assist- 
ance they might give in securing the election for him. 
Adams was not unwilling to throw the weight of the 
influence of the administration in Taylor's favor, but 
Monroe determined to let the House solve its own prob- 
lems, and Adams promised to take no more part in the 

After Adams was elected he did not follow Monroe's 

4^ Annals, 10 Cong. 1, 789-792; Blount's motion was lost, 24-87. 
^"^ Hid., 11 Cong. 1, 58; 13 Cong. 1, 157, ways and means only. 
48 J, Q. Adams, Memoirs, V, 428, 431-432, 434-439. 


example of non-interference in contests over the speaker- 
ship. In the spring of 1825, Webster assured the new 
president not only that he would not run against Taylor, 
but that he would give him his active support. Adams 
took pains to have Webster reminded of this promise 
when Congress convened. Before the House selected its 
presiding officer, Adams and Taylor talked over the 
composition of the committees in the event of the latter 's 
election. The president and his candidate concluded that 
although they could not displace those who had been 
chairmen in the last Congress, they might very well 
''arrange the members so that justice may be done as far 
as practicable to the administration."*® 

By 1825, as the result of fairly steady development, 
certain institutions, the caucus, the standing committee 
system, and the speakership, had become firmly estab- 
lished in the House of Representatives. These can be 
dissected out from the main body, so to speak, and 
described accurately enough, each by itself. Such 
analysis is necessary, but it does not go far enough. The 
really significant thing, in addition to finding out the 
true nature of these institutions, is to see how they were 
related to each other, and how each contributed to the 
process of legislation. Then, because the president and 
his cabinet played a more or less important part in 
Congressional affairs, their connection with legislative 
institutions must also be taken into account. Statutes 
are the finished product of the combined activities of 
all these separate factors. Unfortunately for purposes 
of exposition, the relative influence of the several forces 
varied so greatly from time to time that snapshots of 
them all at work in different years would present very 
dissimilar results. President, cabinet. Congressional 

49 J. Q. Adams, Memoirs, VII, 68-70; Taylor was chosen on the second 


leaders of the party organization, or the Speaker, might 
and did have the whip hand at different times. It is 
particularly difficult to describe accurately the relation- 
ship from 1811 to 1825, the very years when the standing 
committee system and the powerful speakership were 
developing, because it was a time of party disintegration. 
The balance of power was generally in the House, but 
members of the cabinet enjoyed no insignificant influence 
in legislative affairs, while Clay, one of the greatest 
Speakers, was at first, in 1818, decisively beaten on his 
favorite South American policy.^" 

The development of the speakership and the committee 
system was contemporaneous with the throwing off of 
that comprehensive executive domination which had 
characterized the Jeffersonian epoch. But the opera- 
tion of these institutions in the House did nothing to 
strengthen and make permanent those habits of greater 
legislative freedom which were in evidence up to 1829. 
That the standing committee system did not make the 
House independent of an active executive can be seen 
from a glance at legislative history under various presi- 
dents, from Andrew Jackson to Woodrow Wilson. As 
it is, and as it has been for a hundred years, the 
organization of the House permits the application of 
powerful executive pressure, and in fact the wheels 
of the government have never run more smoothly 
than when the president has been in a position to 
drive Congress. When party lines are tightly drawn, 
and when executive and legislature are politically 
friendly, the committee system works well, because 
under such conditions there is cooperation and respon- 
sible leadership. At other times the division of the 
House into fifty or more committees tends to prevent 
the enactment of any carefully prepared legislative 

^0 Annals, 15 Cong. 1, 1646; Clay's motion was lost, pp. 45-115. 


program. The system is essentially a practical, not an 
ideal, solution of governmental problems, for which the 
Constitution must be held responsible. Before it can be 
changed very much the organic law must provide for a 
more definite connection between executive and legis- 
lature, and in addition must take into account the 
important position of the political party. 


The sources upon which this work is based are, for 
the most part, of three different kinds : legislative jour- 
nals, correspondence, and newspapers. For the federal 
House of Representatives, the reports of debates, gen- 
erally cited as the Annals of Congress, have been used 
extensively. The footnotes are numerous enough to show 
what material has yielded the most information. 

Those portions of the study which deal with the 
regular standing committees are based primarily on the 
official minutes of the various legislative bodies, and 
on the Annals. These records show what new standing 
committees were created at various times, what kind of 
work was assigned to them, and what gradual changes 
occurred in the relations between committee and assem- 
bly. Beyond that point these sources do not go, and it is 
almost impossible to supplement them with evidence 
gleaned elsewhere, because newspapers and collections 
of correspondence are generally silent on the subject of 
standing committees. These records are with some few 
exceptions available in printed form. 

With reference to those informal committees, the 
agents of the political party, the official records contain 
nothing at all. The Journals would never lead one even 
to suspect the existence of such institutions as the 
''Junto" or the caucus, and the Annals of Congress are 
almost as silent. For information about this kind of 
legislative machinery, which in some ways is far more 
important than the ordinary committees, recourse must 
be had to correspondence, diaries, and the newspapers. 
By the proper synthesis of these various kinds of 


material a fairly complete account of legislative growth 
can be obtained. 

Secondary works are useful for their discussion of the 
political situations which have at various times exerted 
an influence on legislative organization, but beyond this 
very important service of supplying a background they 
are not very helpful. They contain only a little informa- 
tion regarding the party organization in the legislature, 
and none at all regarding the development of the 
committee systems. 




New Hampshire. 


(1) On Petitions regard- 
ing the Sale of Land. 


Rhode Island. 

New YorJc. 

(1) Privileges and Elec- 
tions. Grand Committees 
on: (1) Grievances. (2) 
Courts of Justice. (3) Trade. 

New Jersey. 


New Hampshire. 


(1) Finance. (2) En- 

couragement of Arts, Agri- 
culture, and Manufactures. 
(3) Incorporation of Towns, 
and Town Affairs. (4) Ac- 
counts. (5) New Trials. 

(6) Abatement of Taxes. 

(7) Petitions regarding the 
Sale of Real Estate. (8) Nat- 
uralization of Aliens. 


Rhode Island. 

New York. 

(1) Ways and Means. 
(2) Grievances. (3) Courts 
of Justice. (4) Privileges 
and Elections. 

New Jersey. 






(1) Grievances and Courts 
of Justice. (2) Accounts. 

(3) Privileges and Elections. 


(1) Religion. (2) Privi- 
leges and Elections. (3) 
Propositions and Grievances. 

(4) Courts of Justice. (5) 
Claims. (6) Trade. 

North Carolina. 

(1) Accounts. (2) Claims. 
(3) Propositions and Griev- 
ances. (4) Privileges and 

South Carolina. 

(1) Grievances. (2) Privi- 
leges and Elections. 



(1) Ways and Means. 
(2) Claims. (3) Accounts. 


(1) Grievances and Courts 
of Justice. (2) Privileges 
and Elections. (3) Claims. 
(4) Trade and Manufactures. 


(1) Religion. (2) Privi- 
leges and Elections. (3) 
Propositions and Grievances. 

(4) Courts of Justice. (5) 
Claims. (6) Commerce. 

North Carolina. 

(1) PuUic Bills. (2) Fi- 
nance. (3) Privileges and 
Elections. (4) Propositions 
and Grievances. (5) Claims. 
(6) Indian Affairs. 

South Carolina. 

(1) Grievances. (2) Privi- 
leges and Elections. (3) Re- 
ligion. (4) Ways and Means, 

(5) Accounts. 


(1) Privileges and Elec- 
tions. (2) Religion. (3) 
Ways and Means. (4) Ac- 
counts. (5) Courts of Jus- 
tice. (6) Public Roads, 
Bridges, Causeways, and 


1770. 1791. 

Georgia. Georgia. 

(1) Grievances. (2) Privi- (1) Privileges and Elee- 

leges and Elections. tions. (2) Accounts. (3) 

Petitions. (Three commit- 
tees, referred to as Commit- 
tee on Petitions No. 1, 2, and 
3, respectively.) 


Adams, Henry, 180, 186. 

Adams, John, 30, 156, 159, 215. 

Adams, John Quiney, 175, 241, 242, 
243, 251, 253, 254. 

Adams, Samuel, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 
31, 33, 35. 

Alien and Sedition Acts, 162. 

Ames, Fisher, 123, 124, 136, 137, 
146, 147, 158, 161, 238. 

Anti-Federalists, see Eepublicans. 

Assembly, of New York, committees, 
7, 8, 17; influence of Parliament, 
9; political parties, 50, 52; law- 
yers in, 52-53. 

Assumption of State Debts, 24, 142, 

Appropriations, in Massachusetts, 
72; in New York, 96. 

Auditing Committees, 216. 

Aurora, the, 152. 

Baldwin, Abraham, 229, 233. 

Baptists, 12. 

Barbour, Philip P., 218. 

Bassett, Burwell, 195. 

Bayard, James A., 185, 187. 

Bennett, James, 230. 

Benson, Egbert, 132. 

Bernard, Sir Francis, 25, 27, 29, 33, 
34, 39, 40. 

Bills, in colonial legislature, 16, 21, 
77; in Congress, 222, 226. 

Bland, Theodoric, 143. 

Bonus Bill, 206. 

Boston, Caucus Club, 30; town meet- 
ing, 30, 31, 33; British troops, 34. 

Boudinot, Elias, 131. 

Bowdoin, James, 29. 

Bowers, Jerathmeal, 25, 33. 

Budget, colonial, 69-70. 
Burgess, Prof. John W., cited, 234, 
Burr, Aaron, 185. 
Butler, Andrew P., 137. 

Cabinet, in England, compared with 
"Junto," 59-60; growth of, 116- 

Cabinet, tendency toward, in colo- 
nies, 59, 84-90. 

Cabinet, in United States, Federal- 
ist idea of, 145 ; relations with 
Congress, 146; members desire to 
attend House, 149; under Jeffer- 
son, 179, 208; under Madison, 198, 
208; relations with standing com- 
mittees, 237; influence on legis- 
lation, 244. 

Calhoun, John C, 199, 222, 239, 246. 

Calhoun's bonus bill, 206. 

Campbell, George W., 183. 

Caucus, in Congress, 144; work, 168, 
195, 204; origin, 184; in election 
of 1800, 185; nominates speaker, 
187, 249, 250; nominates vice- 
president, 187; description of, 
188; Quiney 's account of, 189; 
nominates president, 200-201 ; 
friction in, 202; changes in, 206; 
relation to executive and to Con- 
gress, 237; relation to standing 
committees, 248; names commit- 
tees, 251. 

Caucus Club, in Boston, 30. 

Cheves, Langdon, 250. 

Cincinnati, Order of the, 143. 

Circular Letter, of Massachusetts, 



Clay, Henry, speaker, 199; urges 
war in 1812, 200; influence in 
House, 207; House leader, 208; 
reorganizes House, 210; contri- 
bution to standing committee sys- 
tem, 215, 216, 218, 219, 228, 251; 
improves procedure, 219; attack 
on administration, 242; South 
American policy, 255. 

Clinton, DeWitt, 170. 

Clinton, George, 50, 51. 

Clymer, George, 143. 

Golden, Cadwallader, 51-52, 

Colonial agent, 55. 

Colonial government, nature of, 58; 
theory and practice, 61-62. 

Cohimbian Centinel, the, 187, 204, 
240, 249. 

Committees, origin, 3; in House of 
Commons, 5; in New York, 7-9; 
in Virginia, 10-17; in New Eng- 
land, 19-21; in Massachusetts, 20; 
in colonial legislatures, 21; in 
North Carolina, 55-56; in New 
Hampshire, 65; in Massachusetts, 
66; development of, 66-67, 76-78; 
procedure, 104, 110; appointment, 
in House of Commons, 105-106; 
in colonies, 106-108; chairmen, 
109; clerks, 109; hearings, 111; 
meetings, 112, 113, 115; rooms, 
112-113; in House of Eepresen- 
tatives, 129, 157, 160; Gallatin 
attends, 183; early history, 208, 
211, 213; growth, 210, 214; ob- 
jections to, 211 et seq.; attitude 
of Federalists, 213; work, 217, 
220-222; early importance, 222; 
increasing importance, 224, 227, 
228, 236, 247; reports, 225 et 
seq.; Clay's influence, 228; de- 
fects in system, 229; conflicting 
jurisdiction of, 229 et seq.; rela- 
tion to House, executive, and 
caucus, 237; relation to president. 

244, 247; relation to party or- 
ganization, 248; appointment of, 
249; party control of, 250, 251. 
Committee on Accounts, 67-68; in 
Massachusetts, 68; in New Jersey, 
68 ; in North Carolina, 18 ; in Con- 
gress, 215. 
Committee on Agriculture, 216. 
Committee on Claims, in North Caro- 
lina, 18; in Virginia, 11-12; in 
Congress, 157, 214. 
Committee on Commerce and Manu- 
factures, 157, 212, 214, 220, 226, 
"Committee of Convention," in 

Boston, 34, 36. 
Committee of Correspondence, 18. 
Committee on Courts of Justice, in 
New York, 7; in Virginia, 11, 16. 
Committee on the District of Co- 
lumbia, 215, 217-218. 
Committee on Elections, 129, 214, 

Committee on Foreign Eelations, 

200, 215-216, 240, 241-242. 
Committee on Grievances, in New 

York, 7; in other colonies, 17. 
Committee on Indian Affairs, 215- 

Committee on the Judiciary, 216, 

Committee on Legislation, 80-84; in 
Georgia, 80; in Massachusetts, 84; 
in New Hampshire, 80, 81, 84; in 
Pennsylvania, 80, 81, 84; in South 
Carolina, 80, 84. 
Committee on Manufactures, 216, 

Committee on MUitary Affairs, 215- 

Committee on Naval Affairs, 215. 
Committee on Pensions and Eevolu- 

tionary Claims, 216. 
Committee on Post OflSces and Post 
Eoads, 215, 



Committee on Private Land Claims, 

Committee on Privileges and Elec- 
tions, 11, 15, 18. 

Committee on Propositions and 
Grievances, 11, 14. 

Committee on Public Bills, in North 
Carolina, 77, 80, 84-91 ; compared 
with Cabinet, 80, 89, 90, 118; re- 
ports, 87-88; work, 86-89, 102. 

Committee on Public Claims, 11. 

Committee on Public Expenditures, 

Committee on Public Lands, 213, 

Committee on Eeligion, 11, 12. 

Committee of Eevisal and Unfinished 
Business, 214. 

Committee on Eoads and Canals, 231. 

Committee on Trade, in New York, 
7; in Virginia, 11, 15; general, 

Committee of War, 21. 

Committee of Ways and Means, 
origin, 70; in Congress, 129, 130, 
157, 160, 172, 211, 214, 226, 231, 
235, 238, 245; in Massachusetts, 
70 et seq.; in North Carolina, 75; 
in Pennsylvania, 74; in South 
Carolina, 75. 

Committee of the Whole, in House 
of Commons, 92; procedure, 94, 
96; in Congress, 127, 128, 153, 
219; in the Carolinas, 94; in 
Georgia, 93, 97; in Massachusetts, 
97; in New England, 93; in New 
Hampshire, 92, 100; in New York, 
93, 94, 96, 101; in North Caro- 
lina, 94; in Pennsylvania, 94, 97; 
in South Carolina, 94 ; in Virginia, 
93, 95-97, 98-102. 

Congress, procedure, 22; early his- 
tory, 120-121; first committees, 
129, 142; under Eepublicans, 154, 
156; under Federalists, 162-163; 

lack of leadership, 169; party 
alignment, 175; executive in- 
fluence, 175; Quincy's description, 
189; Jefferson's influence, 191; 
rejects executive control, 195; 
confusion in, 197; twelfth Con- 
gress, 199; eleventh Congress, 
210; see also Caucus, Committee, 
Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison. 

Congressional government, influence 
of Virginia, 103. 

Connecticut, committees in, 19, 78. 

Conscription, 240. 

Constitutions, 61, 62, 63, 88-89, 120, 

Council, in Massachusetts, 28, 29. 

Crawford, William H., 243. 

Cushing, Thomas, 25, 26, 33, 35. 

Customs Commissioners, American 
Board of, in Boston, 34. 

Dallas, Alexander G., 170, 245. 
Debates, in Massachusetts, opened to 

public, 32. 
D'Ewes, Simonds, 106. 
Dexter, Samuel, 25, 33. 
Dinwiddle, Eobert, 42, 43. 
District of Columbia, Committee on, 

215, 217, 218. 
Dobbs, Arthur, 44, 54-55. 
Duane, William J., 174, 188. 

Election of 1766, in Massachusetts, 

Election of 1800, 178. 
Embargo, the, 178, 195. 
Eppes, John W., 195. 

FaneuU Hall, 35. 

Federal Convention, 90, 103, 120, 

123, 126. 
Federalist Party, 131, 140, 144, 147, 

148, 150-151, 162, 163, 167, 173. 
Finance, 1, 51, 53, 69, 71, 74, 95, 

148-150, 153-156, 160-161, 182, 

212, 231. 



riudlay, William, 150. 

Fitzsimons, Thomas, 129. 

Floor leader, 176, 192; see also 

Giles, Nicholas, Nicholson, Ean- 

dolph, Eodney. 
Florida, 172, 175, 178, 242. 
Flying machine, 230. 
Follett, M. P., Miss, quoted, 249. 
Foster, Sir Augustus J., 201. 
Francis' Hotel, 181. 

Gage, Thomas, 36, 41. 

Gallatin, Albert, 133, 156, 163, 181, 
182, 196-199, 214, 225, 238, 240. 

Gaston, William, 245. 

Gerry, Elbridge, 129. 

Georgia, legislature, 45-46; com- 
mittees, 78, 107; committee of the 
whole, 97. 

Giles, William B., 152, 158, 167-169, 

Goodhue, Benjamin, 139. 

Goodrich, Chauncey, 159-161. 

Governor, colonial, 58-59, 

Grand committees, 4, 7-8. 

Gray, Thomas, 26. 

Grosvenor, Thomas P., 239, 244, 246. 

Grundy, Felix, 200. 

Hamilton, Alexander, 24, 122, 130, 

133, 134, 140-142, 145, 148, 152, 

154, 176, 211. 
Hancock, John, 25, 33, 34, 35. 
Hanson, Alexander, 202. 
Hardin, Benjamin, 227, 247. 
Hawkins, Benjamin, 109. 
Hawley, Joseph, 25, 33. 
Henry, Patrick, 102, 137. 
Holmes, Isaac E., 242. 
Hooper, Samuel, 109. 
House of Burgesses, committees, 3, 

5; compared with the House of 

Commons, 10 ; attendance, 13 ; 

committees, 13; procedure, 16-17; 

relations with the governor, 42- 

45; committees, 45. 

House of Commons, compared with 
colonial legislature, 1; with House 
of Eepresentatives, 3 ; committees, 
3-5; committee appointment, 105- 
106; committee meetings, 115. 

House of Delegates, 102. 

House of Eepresentatives, in Massa- 
chusetts; influence of House of 
Commons, 6; compared with 
House of Burgesses, 19; political 
parties in, 25, 31; importance of 
Boston in, 31 ; debates opened to 
public, 32; impeachment in, 37- 
39 ; politics in, 40 ; relation with 
English government, 41. 

House of Eepresentatives, federal; 
compared with House of Commons, 
3, 116; first meeting, 122; or- 
ganization, 122; personnel, 122; 
description of, 125, 139; pro- 
cedure, 126; committee of the 
whole, 127 ; Eepublican theories, 
158; increase in power, 196; 
place in government, 200; manage- 
ment of, 203; Clay's influence in, 
207; organization, 248; escapes 
from executive control, 255. 

Huger, Daniel, 143. 

Humphreys, David, 143. 

Hutchinson, Thomas, 28, 29, 32, 37, 
40, 41. 

Indian Affairs, committee on, 215, 

IngersoU, Charles, 245. 
Instructions to Eepresentatives, 30, 


Jackson, James, 141, 143. 

Jackson, John G., 195. 

Jackson, Andrew, 255, 

Jacobins, 187. 

Jameson, J. Franklin, History of 

Standing Committees, cited, 3. 
Jay Treaty, 158, 186. 
Jefferson, Thomas, 135, 140, 144, 



162, 165, 166, 169, 173-180, 188, 
191, 192, 194. 

Jeffersonian System, 205. 

Johnson, Eiehard M., 228. 

"Junto," the, in colonial legisla- 
tures, 24; in Massachusetts, 25- 
28, 33-35, 37, 39, 42, 47-48; in 
Virginia, 44; power of, 49; in 
New York, 50-53; in North Caro- 
lina, 53-56; conditions responsible 
for, 56 et seq. ; compared with 
Cabinet, 59; development of, 59; 
attitude toward, 60; effect on 
colonial government, 62; not 
recognized in constitutions, 62; 
effect of Eevolution on, 79; de- 
cline, 79-80; compared with Cabi- 
net, 80, 83, 90, 117-118; see also 
Party Organization. 

King, Rufus, 204, 250. 
Knox, Henry, 135. 

Lawyers, in New York Assembly, 

Lee, Joseph, 26. 

Legislature, colonial, growth of, 1 ; 
structure, 2 ; work, 2 ; uniformity, 
6; influences upon, 6-7; compared 
with House of Commons, 9; 
growth, 9 ; select committees, 21 ; 
bills, 21-22; relation with execu- 
tive, 49, 56-58; leaders, 57-58. 

Legislature, state, size, 63 ; condi- 
tions in, 63-64; problems, 64. 

Liberty, the, 34. 

Livermore, Samuel, 129, 211. 

Louisiana, Purchase, 170; govern- 
ment, 177. 

Lowndes, William, 199, 220, 226, 

Maelay, Edward, 141, 142, 143. 
Macon, Nathaniel, 177, 181, 232, 
Macon's Bill Number 1, 197. 
Madison, James, 90, 123, 126, 132, 

134, 140, 144, 154, 180, 193-201, 
206, 207, 220. 

Marshall, John, 166. 

Martin, Josiah, 56. 

Maryland, committees, 17, 76, 78, 
107, 109, 111; speaker, 107. 

Mason, George, 115, 169. 

Massachusetts, committees, 19 ; 
speaker, 25, 106; "Junto," the, 
25-42 ; instructions to representa- 
tives, 30-31 ; Circular Letter, 33, 
36; Provincial Congress, 36, 41; 
royal salaries, 37; Superior Court, 
37-39; politics, 39; governor and 
legislature, 39-41 ; relations with 
England, 41 ; committees, 47-48, 
65-66, 68, 70-78, 80-81, 84, 97, 106, 
108; see also House of Represen- 

Mercer, John F., 149. 

Monroe, James, 133, 155, 177, 239- 
240, 253. 

Muhlenberg, Frederick A. C, 123. 

National Bank, 142, 197, 244. 

New England, 6. 

New Hampshire, committees, 19, 65, 
78, 80-81, 84, 100, 106; procedure, 

New Jersey, 17, 68, 78, 106. 

Newton, Thomas, 243. 

New York, committees, 6, 7; Assem- 
bly, 50-51; lawyers, 52-53; pro- 
cedure, 77; committee of the 
whole, 93, 94, 96, 101; committee 
witnesses. 111. 

Nicholas, Wilson C, 163, 173, 176, 
181, 182, 196, 225. 

Nicholson, Joseph, 178, 181, 182, 

Non-Importation, 33. 

Non-Intercourse Act, 195. 

North Carolina, committees, 17, 18, 
75, 77, 106, 108, 109; politics, 53 
et seq.; speaker, 54-55; legislature, 
56; Cabinet government, approach 



toward, 80, 89, 90, 118; Constitu- 
tion, 88-89; committee of the 
whole, 94; procedure, 102; Pro- 
vincial Congress, 114. 

Oakley, Thomas, 245. 
Oliver, Andrew, 28, 29. 
Oliver, Peter, 38. 
Otis, Harrison Gray, 104. 
Otis, James, 25, 27, 29, 33, 35. 

Page, John, 131, 153, 212. 

Paper money, 69. 

Partridge, Oliver, 25. 

Party organization, in colonial legis- 
latures, 3, 22-24, 39, 49, 57, 121; 
see "Junto"; in Congress, 135- 
137, 139-140, 143-144, 192, 248, 
250; see Caucus. 

Pennsylvania, committees, 74, 77, 80, 
81, 84, 107, 111; committee of 
the whole, 94, 97. 

Person, Thomas, 109. 

Petitions, 14, 19, 64, 135, 153. 

Pickering, Timothy, 175, 178, 179, 
191, 195-196. 

Politics, see "Junto," and Party 

President's Message, 215, 223-224, 

President's Speech, 230. 

Privileges, in House of Commons, 
4; of committee witnesses, 112. 

Procedure, influence of colonial leg- 
islatures on House of Eepresenta- 
tives, 22; in House of Represen- 
tatives, 126, 219, 222-223. 

Provincial Congress, in Massachu- 
setts, 36, 41 ; in North Carolina, 

Quakers, 138. 

Qurncy, Josiah, 189, 208. 

Randolph, Edmund, 108. 

Randolph, John, 168, 169, 171, 172, 

176, 181, 182, 188, 192, 197-198, 
224, 243, 251. 

Randolph, Peyton, 43. 

Reform Bill, of 1832, 5. 

Republican Party, 137, 140, 147-176, 

181-183, 196, 201-206. 
Revenue Bills, 130. 
Revolution, the, 60, 61, 79. 
Rhode Island, 19, 21, 78. 
Robinson, John, 43, 45. 
Rodney, Cssar A., 170, 176. 
Rutledge, Edward, 187. 

Secession, urged by Pickering, 191. 

Sedgwick, Theodore, 139, 148, 187. 

Seven Years' War, 21. 

Sheaffe, Edward, 25, 26, 33. 

Shirley, William, 1. 

Smilie, John, 221. 

Smith, Robert, 196. 

Sons of Liberty, 28. 

Southard, Samuel L., 244. 

Southern Colonies, 6. 

South Carolina, 75, 77, 78, 80, 84, 

Speaker, in House of Commons, 
106; in federal House of Repre- 
sentatives, 105, 123, 126, 168, 176, 

177, 187, 189, 192, 207, 225, 243, 
249, 252, 253; in New York, 51; 
in North Carolina, 54 ; in Virginia, 

Specific Appropriations, 213. 

State Department, 130, 134, 241. 

Stamp Act, 27. 

Starkey, John, 53. 

Steering Committee, 82. 

Superior Court, in Massachusetts, 

Swann, Samuel, 54-55. 

Taggart, Samuel, 200. 
Tariff, 127, 231, 234. 
Taylor, John W., 253. 



Townshend Acts, 33. 

Tucker, George, 131. 

Treasury Department, 129, 130, 132- 
134, 143, 149, 151, 152, 156, 176, 
182, 183, 211, 235, 238, 239, 244- 

Varnum, Joseph B., 177. 

Venable, Abraham, 225. 

Vining, John, 143. 

Virginia, committees, 6, 11-15, 45, 
76, 78, 107-108, 109-111; reli- 
gious difficulties, 12; governor, 42- 
45; procedure, 77; committee of 
the whole, 93, 95, 98-101; speaker, 

War Department, 130, 134, 238-240, 

War Hawks, 199. 
War of 1812, 200. 
Washington Federalist, the, 168, 

178, 187. 
Washington, George, 148. 
Wayne, Anthony, 229. 
Webster, Daniel, 201, 203, 239, 240, 

250, 254. 
Whig Party, in Massachusetts, 26, 

29, 33, 36, 39. 
Wolcott, Oliver, 161. 

X. Y. Z. Affair, 184. 

Yazoo Land Claims, 172. 
























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